Exploring the Relationship Between Aspirin and Cardiac Health
Mon, April 19, 2021

Exploring the Relationship Between Aspirin and Cardiac Health

Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), or aspirin as many people know it, is commonly used as a pain reliever for minor aches, a remedy for fever, and an inflammatory drug that can be used as a blood thinner, according to Medical News Today / Photo by: Shane Maritch via 123RF

 

Acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), or aspirin as many people know it, is commonly used as a pain reliever for minor aches, a remedy for fever, and an inflammatory drug that can be used as a blood thinner, according to Medical News Today, a medical news site based in the UK.

Oftentimes, patients use aspirin long-term and in low doses to help manage the risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks. It is even given to patients immediately after a heart attack to prevent blood clots and cardiac tissue death. New research suggests that aspirin should not be prescribed to most adults who are already in good cardiovascular health, with risks of internal bleeding outweighing the supposed benefits of preventing heart attacks, according to the New York Times.

What Exactly Is Aspirin?

Aspirin is one of the most widely used medications in the world, with 35,000 metric tons of aspirin consumed annually. The term aspirin is a trademark owned by pharmaceutical company Bayer. It is a medicine that contains salicylate and derived from willow bark. Its use is said to have originated around 400 BCE, in the time of Hippocrates. People would chew on the willow bark to relieve inflammation and fever, and as a natural remedy for headaches and minor aches and pains.

Aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and has analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory effects. In other words, this works to relieve pain without anesthesia or loss of consciousness, reduces fever, and lowers inflammation in higher doses. The medicine is a non-steroid, which functions similarly to a steroid, but without unwanted side effects. Aspirin is a non-narcotic because the medicine does not cause insensibility or stupor, according to Medical News Today.

Old Research, Revisited

According to the Medical Dictionary, an online source of medical information, the standard dosage of aspirin taken for mild pain or fever every 4 hours for ages 2 to 3 is 162 milligrams (mg), 243 mg for ages 4 to 5, 324 mg for ages 6 to 8, and 405 mg for ages 9 to 10, with 11- to 12-year-olds taking 486 mg and 12- to 14-year-olds taking 648 mg. But, the basis for low dosage of aspirin is 75 to 81 mg per day, to act as an antiplatelet medication meant to prevent blood clots from forming in adults ages 50 to 59 years old, and taken for a duration of 10 years or for the rest of their life.

For years, prolonged low-dose of aspirin has been described as the panacea of all medicines, to ward off heart attacks, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases. However, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released guidelines that state that the daily low-dose aspirin, of 100 milligrams or less, did not help other adults who do not have cardiovascular disease. 

More than this, authors from a similar study with an article featured in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that low dosage of aspirin in adults 70 years and older is not recommended due to an increased risk of internal bleeding. The guidelines, according to Dr. Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at John Hopkins School of Medicine, are only applicable to those with no clinical signs of heart disease or stroke. In short, aspirin in low doses is not recommended for those without cardiovascular disease, and is not an effective preventive measure. Taking low doses has been found to have no benefits in low-risk patients. But, if the patient already had a heart attack in the past, they should continue with the medicine as their bodies are receptive to the medication, as mentioned by Dr. Michos. More studies are also showing that the right dosage of aspirin is dependent on a person's existing weight, wherein larger doses are needed for heavier adults, showing that the amount of aspirin ingested is one of the factors to look at.

Interactions

While prolonged low dosage intake may prove detrimental to patients trying to prevent cardiovascular diseases, causing internal bleeding, combinations of other medicines may also have the same effect. 

Another important factor in assessing the medications taken by individuals is how this reacts with a combination of other medicines, which may make aspirin less effective or increase the risk of disease in the patient. This is known as a ‘drug interaction’.

In instances when aspirin is taken alongside anti-inflammatory painkillers, this can increase the risk of stomach bleeding. If aspirin is taken with methotrexate or treatments used in cancer, aspirin can affect the role and bodily function of eliminating the methotrexate element in the body, making chemical levels dangerous for any individual. Anti-depressants taken alongside aspirin can increase the risk of internal bleeding. Lastly, warfarin or anticoagulant drugs or blood thinners taken with aspirin may reduce the drug’s effects and increase internal bleeding further. Anyone taking a combination of medicines should always check with their doctors. While the medication is intended to resolve a health problem, side effects, wrong diagnosis, and over-prescription may end up being harmful to the one taking it.

While prolonged low dosage intake may prove detrimental to patients trying to prevent cardiovascular diseases, causing internal bleeding, combinations of other medicines may also have the same effect / Photo by: photochicken via 123RF