BOSTON — Fewer than half of people who could benefit from the heart-health benefits of a daily low-dose aspirin take it, while many others take it when they shouldn't, the January 2014 Harvard Heart Letter reported Friday.
If you don't have heart disease, but do have high blood pressure, diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease, don't automatically assume that taking aspirin every day is a good idea, the Letter noted. "A lot of people take aspirin who really shouldn't," stated Christopher Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Everyone assumes aspirin is harmless, but it isn't."
For some, the downsides of aspirin — mainly gastrointestinal bleeding — outweigh its benefits. Taking aspirin with food may help. So can taking medications to treat heartburn, which help protect the stomach. These include simple antacids like Tums, acid blockers like famotidine (Pepcid) or proton-pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Prilosec OTC, Zegerid OTC).
A pill that combines aspirin and omeprazole may soon be available, the Letter suggested.