When each February comes around, the same themes crop up: hearts, pink, red, Valentine’s Day and National Heart Month. Now is the time that we as health care providers remind patients about the detriment of heart disease.
What is heart disease, and how can I prevent a heart attack?
As providers we consistently talk about diet, exercise and encouraging patients to be seen by their primary provider so that they can check your heart beat.
However, a question from patients that almost always comes up during those office visits is: Should I be taking a baby aspirin?
So, let’s dive into what baby aspirin does and whether you should be taking it (or why you are already).
What the Heck Does Baby Aspirin Do?
Most people think of aspirin as something they take as needed when they are in pain or have a headache. So why do health care providers say we need to take it for “heart health”? Well the easy answer to that is that aspirin has multiple uses in our bodies.
Aspirin has antipyretic, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Antipyretic means that aspirin can help with fevers
- Analgesic means that it helps with pain
- Anti-inflammatory means that it can decrease inflammation in a varied of situations
Its anti-inflammatory properties mean that it can help with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or even sprained joints. However, aspirin’s main objective is to block platelets in our blood from clotting with one another, meaning that it can stop blood clots from happening, and blood clots are what cause both strokes and heart attacks. Taking aspirin every day then can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes from happening.
Sounds Pretty Good–Shouldn’t Everyone Be Taking a Baby Aspirin Then?
Unfortunately, all medications have side effects. However, when talking about aspirin there is a big side effect that providers must watch: bleeding. Because aspirin thins the blood, sometimes it can become too thin and can actually lead to too much bleeding, which can cause things like GI bleeding and brain hemorrhage. So, aspiring is only prescribed or suggested in certain situations.
How Do I Know If Aspirin Would Benefit Me? Let’s Calculate It!
The biggest answer to this question is easy: ask your primary provider or your cardiologist, if you have one.
However, providers use something called the Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease Risk (ASCVD) calculator to determine if our patients would benefit from aspirin therapy daily. The ASCVD calculator determines the risk of whether the patient will have a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years. If the risk is >7.5%, then the patient should be placed on baby aspirin daily to lower their risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The calculator is based off of gender, age, ethnicity, cholesterol, blood pressure, and whether the patient has a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoking.
Therefore, if you have any of the following you may want to consider a daily baby aspirin and talk to your primary provider:
- Male Gender
- Increasing Age
- High Total Cholesterol
- High Blood Pressure (or Hypertension)
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Smoker OR previous smoker
Once again, the above-mentioned factors are just suggestions, and if you have any questions you should talk to your health care provider. In addition, your provider can address whether the risks of bleeding are worth the benefits of taking a daily aspirin regimen. Either way, thinking and talking about whether you should take baby aspirin gets confusing, and it’ your primary provider’s role to walk you through the steps.
If you have any other questions, or would like to schedule an appointment with a provider here at Murray County Medical Center, please call our clinic at: 507.836.6153.
Heart Health Lunch & Learn: Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Join Marian Petrasko, MD, Sanford Cardiologist, for a special presentation on heart disease, preventive screenings and how to keep your heart healthy. It will be held at The Plaid Moose in Slayton and lunch is complimentary. The presentation begins at 12 pm and Hands-Only CPR follows at 12:30 pm.
REGISTER: Call 507.836.1234 to register for the lunch & learn!