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Jewish World Review
Daily aspirin prevents dangerous clots
Harvard Heart Letter
Ever wonder how or why? We thought so.
Aspirin is one of the simplest, safest, cheapest -- and most effective -- ways to prevent a clot-caused heart attack or stroke. It does so by preventing platelets from sticking together in your blood, an early step in clot formation.
You should take a low-dose (81-mg) aspirin a day if you've already had a heart attack or stroke caused by a blood clot, or your 10-year risk of a heart attack or stroke is above 10.6 percent (calculate your risk for heart attack or stroke at health.harvard.edu/147).
If your calculated risk is between 6 percent and 10.6 percent, ask your doctor to help you make the aspirin decision. If your risk is less than 6 percent, daily aspirin could do more harm than good.
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It's hard to understand why fewer than half the people who should be taking aspirin daily actually do. As medicines go, it's easy to take. Low-dose aspirin comes in small pills that go down easily. And it isn't expensive; a year's worth can cost as little as $5. If you have trouble remembering to take it, establish a routine, such as popping an aspirin after you brush your teeth in the morning. If you use a pill organizer to remind you to take other medications, drop a low-dose aspirin into each day's compartment.
If side effects such as stomach upset or bleeding worry you, try taking aspirin with food. Another way to address the stomach-upset problem is to add a medication that quells or prevents heartburn. These include proton-pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid, generic); simple antacids like Tums; or acid blockers like famotidine (Pepcid, Fluxid, generic).
If you're allergic to aspirin or prone to bleeding internally (because of a stomach ulcer or a past episode of bleeding), don't take it. Instead, talk with your doctor about alternate approaches to prevent platelets from sticking together, which include medications such as clopidogrel (Plavix) and ticlopidine (Ticlid). Some researchers have raised the possibility that proton-pump inhibitors might diminish clopidogrel's impact on platelets, but clinical trials haven't borne that out. -- Harvard Heart Letter
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