April 9th, 2009
10:19 AM ET

Who should take a daily aspirin?

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by Sharon, Mays Landing, New Jersey

“My husband’s doctor told him to take an aspirin a day. Should I be taking one too?”


Thanks for the question Sharon. Aspirin is a medication we often get questions about, probably because an estimated one-third of Americans take it every day. The popular pain reliever is easily accessible, inexpensive, and available at your local pharmacy. It is commonly used to treat arthritis, headaches and fever among other minor pains. But what is often confusing is whether taking it every day can help prevent ailments– a heart attack or stroke.

Most daily users were most likely prescribed aspirin to lower their risk of cardiovascular disease. But it is important to note that not all people will benefit from this treatment, and in some cases, it can be dangerous.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is a group of independent health experts who review effectiveness and offer usage guidelines for medical treatments and drugs. Last month, the USPSTF updated its 2002 recommendations of who could benefit from a daily aspirin regime.

Men aged 45 to 79, and women aged 55 to 79 who are at high risk of heart attack may benefit from a daily aspirin as a prevention tool. The USPSTF concluded that aspirin is most effective in this group of men to prevent heart attack and for women to prevent stroke.

Being overweight, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking cigarettes are all factors that put you at high risk for heart attack. The group added that even if you fit this age and risk factor category, aspirin is not recommended if you have a history of gastrointestinal bleeding.

Women under the age of 55, or men under the age of 45 who have never had a stroke or heart attack should not take daily dose of aspirin as a preventive measure. Additionally, USPSTF did not find a clear benefit or risk of a daily aspirin in adults over the age of 80.

Aspirin works by suppressing your body’s natural production of substances and blood cells that can cause swelling, pain and blood clots. It’s a type of drug known as salicylate. It is critical to discuss the risks with your doctor before beginning an aspirin regime. It can be dangerous for people with a history of ulcers and GI bleeds among others ailments. It can also interfere with certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs, so disclose to your doctor what meds you take.

The FDA warns that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take aspirin (unless specifically prescribed by a doctor). Up to 8 percent of each aspirin dose can be transferred to the baby and may cause birth defects or complications with pregnancy.

So Sharon – you can see there is no clear answer to your question because many variables come into play. You and your husband can be the same age but have different health histories and risk factors that would impact the effectiveness of a daily dose of aspirin. Talk to your doctor, who can determine the potential risk vs. benefit specific to your health history.

One thing I know for sure is if you're concerned about your risk of heart disease, eating a balanced diet and 45 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise a day is one of the best “medicines.”

soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Max Lambie

    Dear Dr. Sanjay: Gupta

    Your report on the Natasha Richardson tragedy and specifically your commentary concenring the lack of Medovac helicopter service at Mount Tremblan.and the Laurentian ski area, is putting the cart before the horse. Similarly the suggestion that a helmet might have
    prevented the casuality is also like taking an aspiirn after one has contracted pneumonia.

    Should a skier sustain a head injury at all in falling at any ski resort?
    The answer is NO. The fact is that the hit to the head that caused the concussion must have come from a very hard object, most likely a rock outcrop. But if the hill is ADEQUATELY covered with snow, particularly on the beginner's slope that Natsha was using, there is no way that a falling skier can receive a concussion. Up until say 2001, competitive skiers did not even wear a helmet and they took falls travelling at 60 mph without head injuries..

    There were years when I fell dozens of times without suffering even the slightest hit to my head. The reason is that I always ski in deep snow and ski where they produce artificial snow.. I advoid sopts wher there is ice or exposed ground.

    Another point. Where was the ski patrol? She was a beginner and should have been supervised.

    The ski resort seems to have been negligent.

    The remedy is that Mount Tremblant shoud make sure there is sufficient snow cover, particularly at spring time, by laying artificial powder at places where the snow is thin. It was negligent in not doing so.

    Ski injuries hould just result in twiste ankles if ther is adequate snow cover on the ground. There needs to be more intensive monitoring of the safety measures at ski resorts.

    That's the probelm. It is called PREVENTATIVE REMEDIES.>

    Your report is seen through the eys of a Doctor.

    April 11, 2009 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Linda Beach

    A year ago, April 12, I was released from the hospital with instructions to take one baby aspirin a day. Two nights before, I was admitted to the hospital with a possible TIA. After a barrage of testing they found no blood clots, no heart damage, no stroke.They were really baffled that there were no after affects. I give praise to Jesus because I had met with some friends who prayed for God's touch on me when I was feeling "strange" that evening.
    After my release from the hospital I still had a pain on the right side of my head. After aspirin therapy for a month, the pain left and I've had no signs of a TIA for the past year. I'm grateful that God heals through aspirin and that he heals through prayer.

    April 13, 2009 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • melody


      September 26, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse |
    • Helena Troy

      ...yet people die in spite of prayer.

      March 11, 2013 at 11:09 | Report abuse |
    • Name*Des

      God bless you! 325 MG aspirin helped me get through chest pains. That's how I am here. Amen!

      November 23, 2014 at 00:34 | Report abuse |
  3. Jim Reese

    Taking a 81 mg aspirin daily due to my type 2 diabetes saved my life. One night I passed out due to a bleeding ulcer due to the daily aspirin. My wife transported me to the ER and next day I was scoped and the doctor observed abnormal tissue in my stomach and decided to bio it. The lab results were positive for cancer. I had surgery and the lab results indicated that it was a stage one stomach cancer. I was told that this condition was rare since stomach cancer normally spreads undetected. My son is a doctor and told me that in probably the diabetes saved my life due to daily medication of the aspirin.

    April 17, 2009 at 09:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. kathy carlton

    My son, 34 years of age, Army Blackhawk Medavac pilot had a stroke Easter Sunday.
    This is his first hospital stay since birth. The MRI performed on Monday, did confirm a stroke. There is a family history of heart attacks from grandparents. The only other results he is getting at this time is high cholesterol, no blood clots; he has not been on any other medication as he has been healthy to this point. He is single, due for his 3rd tour in Iraq at the end of April. He is also asking today the type of "stroke" he had. Is there studies like this on someone young with high cholesterol having strokes? Right side of his body was numb; as of today, some problems with Right arm, numbness and some vision problem with right eye.
    Physical from the Army a few weeks ago did suggest for him to lose some weight, by their standards.
    My family is in shock of this news, he is in daily therapy and making improvements.

    April 20, 2009 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. M Hill

    I heard the results of one study indicated that if a woman does take low dose aspirin it is more effective if taken in the evening before bed time.

    April 23, 2009 at 07:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. George

    Hi Dr. Gupta,

    I had twice triple bypass (2000 & 2006) surgeries. My cholesterol was a problem because it was produced in my liver and it blocked the coronaries. It is under control. After the 2nd surgery I was installed with 3 stents because of early blocking. Is there any other technology available to cleanup the coronaries like using a tiny laser drill or something that melts down the cholesterol ? I take 325 mg Aspirin, Plavix, Toprol XL, Quinapril, Amlodipine, Simvastatin and Niaspan.
    Thanks for your response.

    George in Tallahassee, FL

    April 23, 2009 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. MP006

    My doctor put me on 81 mg per day in addiiton to Crestor for my cholesterol. I noticed I bled much more profusely from small cuts than I did before and I got big bruises when I went for blood tests. So I now cut my aspirin pills in half and it has helped immensely.

    May 7, 2009 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mike Lovick

    When the lining of your stomach becomes compromised, normal acids that aid in daily digestive functions eat away at the vulnerable, injured area. The lesion that forms — called an ulcer — can be as small as a quarter of an inch to as large as 2 inches in diameter. Severe pain and discomfort are the earliest symptoms. Stomach acid is allowed to continuously erode into underlying blood vessels if the ulcer is left untreated, which can cause bleeding that seeps into the digestive tract. The result: a bleeding ulcer that is a serious health threat requiring immediate treatment. :

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    February 26, 2013 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Anne

    I also have been taking this since I read a report that it seems to have an impact on prevential of pancreatic cancer. I have a blood relative aunt and uncle who both died of pancreatic cancer, so am afraid that genetics might not be on my side here. So I do what I can.

    March 11, 2013 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Angella Fabin

    Alternately, people may also use the term bleeding ulcer to refer to a lesion that either perforates (creates a hole in the intestine) or penetrates (creates a hole in the intestine and a nearby organ). Perforation may either fill the abdomen with material from the gastrointestinal tract or it can block another part of the intestine and lead to gastrointestinal obstruction. Penetration may have different symptoms depending upon the related organ that it affects. Symptoms of either of these conditions can include extreme stomach panic, vomiting blood, passing black colored stools, or matter that looks like coffee grounds. If an obstruction is present, people may vomit but usually cannot have bowel movements ..,'-

    My own, personal webpage

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.