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Tuesday, June 18, 2019
Thursday, 10 September 2015 15:40

The Facts About Aspirin, Heart Disease & Stroke

With more a third of Americans now taking low-dose aspirin to reduce their risk of heart attack it's important to understand when aspirin should be taken and what the health risks are.

Should you be taking a daily aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke?

No one should begin taking aspirin at any dose without first consulting with a physician to determine their risk of cardiovascular disease. Simply having a family history of heart disease and stroke is not enough to make an informed decision and may put you at risk from complications. The potential complication from taking even a baby aspirin include cerebral hemorrhage and gastrointestinal bleeding.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that more than 1 in 10 patients in the U.S. were inappropriately prescribed aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Inappropriate use of aspiring was defined by primary cardio vascular disease prevention guidelines as use of aspirin therapy in patients with a 10-year cardiovascular disease risk of less than 6 percent.

The best way to predict whether you are at risk is to have a noninvasive CT scan of your heart to look for coronary calcium. This is considered by most experts to be the most reliable predictor of a future heart attack. The result of this scan is called a calcium score, and it reflects the amount of atherosclerotic plaque that you’ve built up in your coronary arteries over a lifetime. The higher your calcium score, the more plaque in your arteries and the greater your risk of a future heart attack or stroke.

The bottom line is that aspirin is not a magic bullet, and carries significant risk, but under certain circumstances, including preventing a second stroke or heart attack, the benefits can outweigh the risks.

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Many Americans take heartburn medications known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to help relieve the discomfort of acid indigestion. A recent study found that the drugs are linked to an increased risk of heart attacks, as well as other health problems. The PPIs researchers studied included both prescription and over-the-counter drugs meant to reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces, thereby reducing discomfort in the chest. They included: Nexium (esomeprazole), Prevacid (lansoprazole), Prilosec and Zegerid (omeprazole), among others. 

The study looked at adults who had no history of heart disease and found that there was a link between PPIs and an increased risk of heart attacks. However, the study does not prove that taking PPIs raises the heart attack risk.

Should You Take PPIs for Heartburn?

For many, the risks of taking PPIs outweigh the benefits, particularly when there are other effective methods of eliminating heart burn without side effects. Because PPIs only treat the symptoms of heart burn, not the underlying cause, treating the cause is the best strategy.

If you have been taking PPIs regularly to treat heartburn and would like to find an alternative strategy for treating symptoms, it's is important to talk with your doctor before quitting PPIs abruptly. This can have result other harmful side effects.
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