An aspirin a day – can it really help?


Jan 21, 2016 by Aman

Tabloid headlines often seem to be health-related, and it wasn't long ago that they were telling the world that everyone should take an aspirin every single day. This very familiar drug has been shown to prevent the occurrence of some cancers, and to improve our chances of surviving those we do get, in some circumstances.

However, as with all tabloid headlines, a certain amount of critical thinking needs to be applied by the reader, and it is worth bearing in mind that what is good for one person may not be so good for another.

The possible benefits of a daily aspirin

The most important thing when deciding whether to take a drug to prevent a disease that you might not get anyway is the improvements it offers, and the risks and side effects it produces.

Aspirin is a drug that reduces the likelihood of clots forming in your blood, and therefore means that you may be less likely to have a heart attack if you take a small dose on a daily basis.

The likelihood of a stroke – which is also caused by blood clotting – may be slightly reduced (by about 5%); however, the studies that are currently used show that if you do have a stroke, there may be a 21% increase in the chance of you dying from it.

Because doctors don't yet understand the exact mechanisms of how aspirin works with the body and the components that make up cancer and other illnesses, they aren't sure why this is the case.

On the other hand, if bowel cancer, oesophageal cancer, or gastric cancer runs in your family, the daily aspirin may reduce your chances of getting any of those by between 25% to 30%, and there may also be a huge reduction in the likelihood that you actually die from one of those diseases if you are unlucky enough to get one.

The less beneficial aspects of a daily aspirin

People who have problems with their stomach lining, including peptic ulcers and gastric bleeding, may find that a daily aspirin is not a good thing for them as it can increase the chance of suffering from one of these. In addition, there can be problems with major bleeding in other areas of the body.

As you can see, it's important to think about your own medical history and to discuss the choices with your doctor before deciding to take a daily aspirin.

How long before the benefits kick in?

The other element around taking a daily aspirin is that it has to be consumed for ten years or more for the protective aspects to occur.

Older people may find that they get the most benefit from taking an aspirin on a daily basis because cancer and heart disease are more prevalent in the older age groups. However, older people are also more likely to be at risk of damage to their blood vessels, thanks to them being more fragile at older ages.

Decisions about your long-term health should always be made with the full facts. The best thing you can do is to discuss the issues with your doctor before making a decision.