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What Taking An Aspirin Every Day Does to Your Body

Take a look at what that may be doing to your health.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Aspirin has been a staple of medicine cabinets well before many other residents of those shelves were invented. Fifty years ago, it was the go-to for a headache or fever, and it's still widely used today. But science has continued to learn about aspirin's effect on the body—some of the good, some of them not-so-good, and some of them changes to conventional wisdom. If you're taking a daily aspirin, take a look at what that may be doing to your health. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Aspirin Can Reduce Inflammation

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Aspirin has been around since 1899 as the first over-the-counter painkiller and fever reducer.  It's very effective in reducing pain and swelling. It works by inhibiting prostaglandins, the enzyme that functions as an on-off switch for aches and inflammation. Technically, it's an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), the forerunner of more modern drugs in that class like Advil and Motrin. 

2

Aspirin May Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

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"If you have had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor may want you to take a daily low dose of aspirin to help prevent another," says the American Heart Association. "Aspirin is part of a well-established treatment plan for patients with a history of heart attack or stroke." But you shouldn't take daily aspirin unless your doctor prescribes it; they can evaluate your individual risks and benefits. Read on to find out why this is important.

3

Aspirin May Increase Bleeding Risk

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Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force updated its recommendation about taking daily aspirin. It used to be routinely recommended to reduce the risk of heart disease. But taking daily aspirin increases the risk of serious bleeding, particularly in the stomach, intestines, and brain. So the USPSTF recommends that people over 60 no longer start taking daily aspirin, and people aged 40 to 59 should take it on a case-by-case basis. It's also recommended that people under 40 without a history of heart disease not take it. 

(The panel's recommendations don't apply to people who have been taking daily aspirin or have already had a heart attack. If you're taking daily aspirin and wonder if you should continue, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any changes.)

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4

Aspirin Can Cause Stomach Ulcers

middle-aged man doubled over in liver pain
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Aspirin is very strong medication, and it can irritate the lining of the stomach, causing pain, ulcers, and bleeding. That risk is higher in people who are older, already have stomach ulcers, take blood thinners, or drink alcohol. 

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5

Aspirin Can Cause a Dangerous Syndrome in Children and Teens

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Experts say that children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should not be given aspirin. It can lead to Reye's Syndrome, a serious condition that causes swelling in the brain and liver damage. This usually affects children and teens recovering from a viral infection.

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6

Aspirin May Not Prevent Colon Cancer

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In 2016, the USPSTF recommended that people take baby aspirin to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Late last year, they indicated they may reverse that guidance. The main reason: A study in the elderly found that aspirin use was associated with an increase in colon cancer deaths. "That said, the jury is still out regarding colon cancer—any benefits of aspirin in clinical trial participants will likely take 10 or 20 more years to come to light," said Andrew Moran, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at Columbia University. "This means that in the future, these guidelines may change again." He notes the best way to prevent colon cancer is to be screened for it.

And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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