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Talk to a doctor before stopping aspirin therapy

Q: Almost 20 years ago my primary care physician suggested I should start taking a low-dose aspirin every day. After reading several articles over the past few months I stopped doing this. Recently I had a conversation with a good friend about taking an aspirin daily and she strongly disagreed with me. So how do you figure out what is right?

A: To take or not to take? That is the question. I was reminded this issue has been addressed previously in our column as far back as February 2013 when the benefit of taking aspirin as a precautionary measure was starting to be disputed. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine stated a 2015 study found more than 50% of adults between the ages of 45-75 were taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks. It is suggested some people in this group may be doing more harm than good. Do the risks outweigh the benefits?

Once again this topic has been in the news over the past year with further clarification. The American College of Cardiology has set new guidelines recommending against giving aspirin to older adults who don’t have a history of heart disease. This appears to be even more important for someone over the age of 70. For those individuals who have already had a heart attack, stroke or have an existing heart disease the protocol should most likely be continued.

The primary concern regarding taking aspirin on a daily basis is the potential risk for gastrointestinal bleeding. The chemical components of aspirin essentially reduces the blood’s clotting action which is beneficial in some scenarios and dangerous in others with conditions such as a history of bleeding or clotting disorder, aspirin allergy or bleeding stomach ulcers.

I would recommend you consult with your doctor about whether it is still appropriate for you to be taking the aspirin. Only a physician thoroughly familiar with a person’s medical history should make the decision after reviewing all the facts. Likewise, medical professionals believe someone who has been taking a daily dose of aspirin should not discontinue the usage “cold turkey.”

As a matter of practice it is always best to have a discussion with your physician whenever you are in doubt about anything that could potentially impact your health.

 

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Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to ageinfo@esmv.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services.