Ultracheap and easy to take, aspirin may play a bigger role in your life than soothing the occasional headache. Doctors say it can boost your body's ability to fend off heart attacks.
But a daily dose of aspirin isn't for everyone. For many people, it could be unnecessary or even harmful. Here's what you should know:
1. YOU MIGHT NOT NEED A DAILY ASPIRIN
Daily aspirin may be appropriate for people with heart disease, he said. The same goes for smokers, diabetics, people with high blood pressure and those whose mothers had a heart attack before the age of 65 or fathers had one before 55, Green said.
But in other people, the risk for gastric bleeding may outweigh the lowered risk for a heart attack. "If you have very low risk and you're 30, 35 or 40, the risk is worse than the benefit," he said, adding that elderly people who aren't in a risk group may not need to take aspirin either.
2. ASPIRIN CAN BE DANGEROUS
"Aspirin should not be used if someone has an allergy to aspirin, has active bleeding or stomach ulcers," said Dr. Lloyd Lense, associate clinical professor of medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. "Complications from aspirin may be influenced by kidney disease, liver disease or taking other medications."
Aspirin is a blood thinner that reduces the ability of blood to form the blockages known as clots. If you're already taking another blood thinner, aspirin could spell trouble by making it too easy for your body to bleed without stopping.
3. ASPIRIN WON'T PREVENT ALL HEART ATTACKS
In fact, aspirin typically reduces your chances of having an attack by just 10 to 20 percent, Green noted. The difference is more significant, he said, for people who are at greater risk for a heart attack.
4. SIZE MATTERS
Make sure to ask your doctor about just how much aspirin you should take. "The dose should be 75 to 325 milligrams a day, but it depends on the medical circumstances and the other forms of medications that patients are taking," Lense said.
A typical low-dose aspirin (sometimes called a baby aspirin) contains 81 milligrams, and a regular-strength aspirin has 325 milligrams.
5. DURING A HEART ATTACK
If you feel like you're having a heart attack, an aspirin might help reduce the damage. "We know it saves lives," Green said.
Just make sure to chew the aspirin, Green added. That helps it get to work faster, he explained, and may make a big difference compared with swallowing a coated aspirin that takes longer -- hours, even -- to take effect.
Lense offers similar advice. He also recommends chewing an aspirin if you think you're having a heart attack and says that a 325 milligram pill, preferably not coated, would be ideal.
This is the first installment of a 26-week series in which Newsday presents Castle Connolly's list of top LI doctors. Click here to see the full list.
This week, we're featuring LI's top cardiologists.
Dr. Larry Altschul, 540 Union Blvd., West Islip; 631-669-2555
Dr. Maliakal Joseph Anto,8 Greenfield Rd., Syosset; 516-496-7900
Dr. Mark Borek, Stony Brook Cardiology, 26 Research Way, East Setauket; 631-444-1066
Dr. William Breen, 43 Crossways Park Dr., Woodbury; 516-938-3000
Dr. David Brown, Stony Brook University Med. Center, Division of Cardiology, Health Science Center, Stony Brook; 631-444-3699
Dr. Kul Chadda, South Nassau Community Hospital, Electrophysiology Services, 1 Healthy Way, Oceanside; 516-632-3418
Dr. Mathew Chengot, Amityville Heart Center, 129 Broadway, Amityville; 631-598-3434
Dr. Michael Chesner, 325 W. Park Ave., Long Beach; 516-432-2004
Dr. Marvin Cramer, 225 Community Dr., Great Neck; 516-504-0474
Dr. Ronald D'Agostino, 1129 Northern Blvd., Manhasset; 516-627-2121
Dr. Edward Davison, 300 Franklin Ave., Valley Stream; 516-599-8280
Dr. John Dervan, 220 Belle Mead Rd., East Setauket; 631-941-2273
Dr. Robert Dresdale, 225 Community Dr., Great Neck; 516-504-0474
Dr. Ari Ezratty, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-365-6444 or 516-570-6907
Dr. Thomas Falco, 1279 E. Main St., Riverhead; 631-727-2100
Dr. Frederick Fein, 120 Mineola Blvd., Mineola; 516-663-4480
Dr. Aaron Gindea, 800 Community Dr., Manhasset; 516-627-6622
Dr. Louis Gleckel, 2 Ohio Dr., Lake Success; 516-622-6060
Dr. Steven M. Goldberg, 1010 Northern Blvd., Great Neck; 516-390-2430
Dr. Mark Goodman, 975 Stewart Ave., Garden City; 516-222-8610
Dr. Stephen Green, Dept. Cardiology, 300 Community Dr., Manhasset; 516-562-4100
Dr. Steven Greenberg, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Arrhythmia Center, Roslyn; 516-562-6672
Dr. Ronnie Hershman, 1 Hollow Lane, Lake Success; 516-869-5400
Dr. Mansoor Jelveh, 875 Old Country Rd., Plainview; 516-935-8877
Dr. Allen Jeremias, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Health Science Center, Stony Brook; 631-444-1069
Dr. Steven Kobren, Great Neck Med. Group, 488 Great Neck Rd., Great Neck; 516-482-6747
Dr. Jerome Koss, 3003 New Hyde Park Rd., New Hyde Park; 516-358-5401
Dr. Justine Lachmann, 120 Mineola Blvd., Mineola; 516-663-4481
Dr. Lloyd Lense, Stony Brook Cardiology, 26 Research Way, East Setauket; 631-444-1066
Dr. Michael Masciello, 540 Union Blvd., West Islip; 631-669-2555
Dr. Michael Matilsky, Three Village Cardiology, 210 Belle Mead Rd., East Setauket; 631-689-1400
Dr. Guy Mintz, 287 Northern Blvd., Great Neck; 516-482-3401
Dr. Thomas Nicosia, 1615 Northern Blvd., Manhasset; 516-627-9355
Dr. Thomas Pappas, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-390-9640
Dr. Michael Poon, Stony Brook Health Science Center, Stony Brook; 631-444-5400
Dr. Philip Ragno, 1401 Franklin Ave., Garden City; 516-877-2626
Dr. Edward Rutkovsky, 2035 Lakeville Rd., New Hyde Park; 516-328-9797
Dr. Carl Schreiber, 70 Glen St., Glen Cove; 516-484-7893
Dr. Richard Shlofmitz, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-390-9640
Dr. Hal Skopicki, University Physicians at Stony Brook, 3001 Expressway Dr. N., Islandia; 631-444-9600
Dr. Sergio Sokol, Five Towns Heart Imaging, 650 Central Ave., Cedarhurst; 516-804-8590
Dr. Louise Spadaro, St. Francis Hospital, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-562-6653
Dr. William Tenet, 1155 Northern Blvd., Manhasset; 516-627-4330
Dr. Ira Weg, 158 Hempstead Ave., Lynbrook; 516-593-3541
Dr. Marc Weinberg, West Carver Medical Associates, 200 W. Carver St., Huntington; 631-421-0020
Dr. Steven Zeldis, 200 Old Country Rd., Mineola; 516-877-0977
Dr. Ram Jadonath, 300 Community Dr., Manhasset; 516-562-2300
Dr. Joseph Levine, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-622-1011
Dr. Eric Rashba, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Cardiology HSC Bldg. Stony Brook; 631-444-3575
Dr. Meyer Abittan, St. Francis Hospital, The Heart Center, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-627-1155
Dr. Andrew Berke, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-365-2211
Dr. Andrew Lituchy, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn; 516-365-4888
Dr. Lawrence Ong, North Shore University Hospital, Dept. Cardiology, 300 Community Dr., Manhasset; 516-562-4100
Dr. George Petrossian, New York Cardiology Group, 1405 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-484-6777
How they were picked
Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is a health care research and information company founded in 1991 by a former medical college board chairman and president to help guide consumers to America's top doctors and hospitals. Castle Connolly's established survey and research process, under the direction of a doctor, involves tens of thousands of doctors and the medical leadership of leading hospitals.
Castle Connolly's team of researchers follows a rigorous screening process to select doctors on national and regional levels. Using mail and telephone surveys, and electronic ballots, they ask physicians and the leadership of top hospitals to identify exceptional doctors. Careful screening of doctors' educational and professional experience is essential to the committee. Not every good physician makes the list. Rather, the list is a way for patients to get started on their search for the best medical professional. Newsday is not part of the selection process.
Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected and profiled as Castle Connolly Top Doctors.
To see the whole list . . .
Who else is on the list of Top Doctors? More than 6,000 listings are in the New York Metro Area edition of "Top Doctors," published by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The softcover list price is $34.95.
For more information, go to castleconnolly.com, or call 800-399-DOCS.