Tiny pill packs powerful protection
medicine cabinet, and you'll probably see the answer to a longer life -- if
you're at risk of a heart attack. Over 80 billion aspirin are taken by
Americans each year for aches, pains, and headaches, and it's the main
ingredient in more than 50 over-the-counter products.
Aspirin therapy has also become the "gold standard" for treating people
who have suffered a heart attack or are at risk of one. Salicylic acid, the
main ingredient in aspirin, keeps blood cells from clumping together and
sticking to the walls of your arteries. This reduces your risk of blood
clots and heart attacks.
Aspirin therapy involves taking small doses, one 81 mg baby
aspirin, every day to help keep your blood free of clots. However, the
latest research says a larger, booster dose -- about 325 mg or one regular
aspirin -- twice a month might be necessary for aspirin therapy to maintain
its effectiveness. After about two weeks, that dose wears off and another
one is needed. Experts recommend a 325-mg dose on the 1st and 15th of each
month and a smaller, 810mg dose the rest of the month.
If you are a man over 40 or a woman over 50 with any heart disease risk
factors, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, a family
history of early heart attack, or if you are a smoker or postmenopausal
woman not taking hormones, aspirin therapy might be beneficial for you.
In 1997, the FDA approved a prescription blood-thinner, clopidogrel, for
treating and preventing heart disease. But a recent study, taking into
account cost, convenience, and safety, found that aspirin is still the best
choice for most people. Yet, the study found that clopidogrel may be a
better choice for people with peripheral arterial disease. This disease
causes the arteries outside your heart, like those that deliver blood to
your arms and legs, to become clogged. It may also be an option for people
who have severe side effects from aspirin therapy.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning aspirin therapy on your own
to be sure it's the best choice for you. If you're taking ACE inhibitors for
congestive heart failure, for example, aspirin may do more harm than good. A
recent study found that when aspirin was given to people taking ACE
inhibitors, certain aspects of lung function became worse.