By Dr Peter Kadile
Dr. Kadile, I exercise and try and follow a healthy diet. I don’t take any medication and my doctor hasn’t diagnosed me with any significant medical problems. Should I take a daily aspirin to play it safe and prevent a heart attack?
Walter, Palm Springs
Walter, I frequently will encounter new patients that have been taking a daily “baby aspirin” for years thinking it will help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Aspirin interferes with the clotting of blood. If there is damage to a blood vessel wall, a clot can form and that clot can block an artery that supplies blood to the heart. This blockage of a coronary artery results in a heart attack. Blockage of an artery that supplies blood to the brain can result in a stroke.
The general thinking would be that everybody should simply just take an aspirin a day to prevent a heart attack or stroke, but it isn’t that simple. Aspirin has side effects and the risk associated with these side effects can frequently outweigh the potential benefits of taking a daily aspirin. Aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach and is contraindicated in a person who has a history of stomach ulcers. Aspirin can cause a hemorrhagic stroke resulting in bleeding in the brain. People can be sensitive to aspirin and easily bruise or have bleeding gums.
So who should take a daily “baby aspirin”? Obviously you should discuss this with your physician who is familiar with your medical history. Your physician may recommend a daily aspirin if you have had a heart attack or stroke in the past. If a person has documented coronary artery disease, aspirin may be indicated. If a person has significant risk factors for heart attack or stroke such as diabetes, high blood pressure or is a smoker, aspirin may be beneficial. Aspirin can also interfere with other medications or supplements.
Walter, it sounds like you are a healthy individual without any risk factors, so a daily aspirin for you wouldn’t be indicated.
Dr. Kadile, should I take fish oil capsules for my heart?
Ken, you should have regular check ups with your physician to determine your risk for heart disease and of course maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes regular exercise and proper diet.
The Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in fish oil have repeatedly and consistently been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk in multiple types of scientific studies. If you do not regularly eat 2-3 servings of fish a week, daily supplementation of omega-3 fish oil capsules is a good way to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.