Aspirin: should you take it?

aspirinThere was a big development in health care news this week.  The buzz is all about the latest guidelines on aspirin since our friends at the US Preventive Services Task Force updated the recommendations.  It came out in the Annals of Internal Medicine just this week on April 12, 2016.  Talk about “hot off the presses” reporting, eh?  This post is going to decipher the guidelines on who should take a daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks, stroke, and now even colon cancer.  I think this is one of the most important topics I’ve covered yet.

Consider the humble aspirin

  • Descendant of willow bark
  • Invented during the reign of Queen Victoria
  • Known to doctors and nerdy people (that may be redundant) as acetylsalicylic acid (aka ASA to prescription-writers)
  • Introduced by Bayer in 1899 as a powder to treat rheumatic conditions like gout
  • Has been used for centuries (maybe without knowing why) as a pain reliever
  • Almost certainly reduces risk of heart attacks , strokes, and colon cancer.  Possibly reduces risks of esophageal, breast, ovarian, and maybe some other cancers as well.

Should I take an aspirin?

I should note that I’m going to stick to people who have NOT had a heart attack or stroke.   Those people certainly need some kind of anti-platelet treatment and aspirin is one of the best choices for many reasons and may be helpful for secondary prevention of future problems.  Here we are referring to primary prevention which means trying to prevent heart attack and stroke (and we can add colorectal cancer) in people who have never had these conditions.

So let’s get to it.  What do the new guidelines say? Continue reading “Aspirin: should you take it?”

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