Aspirin was first discovered from the bark of the willow tree in 1763 by Edward Stone and was first synthesized by Felix Hoffmann in 1897. This remarkable compound has been used over the years for pain, fevers and for inflammation. About thirty years ago it was discovered to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. It does this by inhibiting something call platelets. Platelets are tiny cells in the blood stream that help to form clots. Since heart attacks and strokes are usually caused by clots clogging blood vessels in the heart and brain, aspirin help to prevent heart attacks and strokes by keeping the clot from forming.
Who is most likely to benefit from aspirin? The patients most likely to benefit from aspirin are patients who have had strokes, heart attacks, angina or stents placed in their heart vessels. In addition, aspirin also helps patients at high risks for these events.
Who is at high risk? Patients with diabetes and chronic kidney disease certainly. Other risk factors for heart attack and stroke are: men above age 45, women above at 55, patients with family history including father/brother with heart attack before age 55 or mother/sister with heart attack before age 65, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. The usual dose of aspirin that we use is 81 mg a day (baby aspirin).
Aspirin, like any other medication, does have side effects. The major side effect we worry about is bleeding. The part of the body where we see this most commonly is the stomach, where aspirin can cause a bleeding ulcer. A bleeding ulcer can show itself with dark, tarry stools or by
vomiting material that looks like coffee grounds, which is digested blood. You are more likely to bleed while on aspirin if you have a history of stomach ulcers, are older than 65, if you take steroids, if you take “arthritis” medications like Aleve, Ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, or if you take blood thinners like Coumadin, Pradaxa, Eliquis, or Xarelto.
Most of the patients we see in this office would likely benefit from taking a low dose aspirin daily (81 mg or baby aspirin daily) but make sure you check with your physician first.