Low dose aspirin therapies (involving the taking of a very small dosage of aspirin daily) are often recommended by doctors as preventive measures against many serious conditions. However, low dose aspirin side effects can also present health problems; it is these that need to be considered before committing to any daily aspirin regimen.
Aspirin is a salicylate. It is also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. It blocks a specific chemical in the human body; this reduces pain and swelling. Aspirin is also a blood-thinning agent. Doctors may recommend daily aspirin for patients who have recently undergone a stroke or a heart attack. The risks for recurrence of either condition can be greatly reduced with proper aspirin use. It is also recommended for patients who have recently undergone any kind of arterial surgery (bypass or having a coronary stent implanted, for example). Post-operative cellular debris, dislodging over the healing process, may cause blood clots. Regular aspirin doses will help prevent that. The connection between low dose aspirin and high blood pressure has also been studied recently.
Low dose aspirin benefits that arise from treatment sessions may vary widely between men and women. Women, especially those between the ages of 55 and 79 at risk for mini strokes (often called transient ischemia), should take a baby aspirin daily. These doses are about 80 mg per tablet – if a doctor advises, two of these can be taken daily. The blood-thinning properties of aspirin can reduce a woman’s risk of such a mini stroke by 17%. Regular use of aspirin also reduces the risk of dying of breast cancer by half. It also has been proven to protect against colon and pancreatic cancers. Men do not always enjoy such greatly reduced risks.
Although the daily doses of aspirin used for maintenance are very small (compared to the standard regular aspirin dose many people consume for headache relief: two tablets averaging a total of about 650 mg) there remains a risk of some side effects. In women these can be minor to significant. While it lowers the risk of many health problems, it can cause others just as severe.
One of the most common, especially for people with sensitive stomachs, is bleeding ulcers. Another possible side effect is the increased risk of having a hemorrhagic stroke (the brain-bleeding type); this risk doubles. Furthermore, although the risk of second heart attacks diminishes with use, aspirin therapy has no effect on reducing the number of fatal heart attacks.
Extended use for many patients has also been shown to lead to kidney and liver problems. Another, more sinister side-effect can be blindness – those patients in the age group most at risk for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). A specific type of AMD called “wet macular degeneration” is the form most likely to lead to blindness. A significant low dose aspirin side effect in this group is complete loss of vision (twice as likely as the same people suffering the disorder not on aspirin therapy). In the end, it is wise to weigh the benefits against risk before committing to such a program long term.