Daily Aspirin Therapy: Right for Diabetes?

Taking a daily aspirin could be good for your health... or it could be bad for your health. And since there's no clear-cut answer for everyone who has diabetes, it's best to ask your doctor before deciding to start taking aspirin on your own.

As with many medications, it has both risks and benefits. A daily low-dose aspirin can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease because it helps prevent the red blood cells from clumping together, something that is more common in diabetics than in non-diabetics. As blood cells clump, blood clots may form, blood vessels become blocked or narrow, and a stroke or heart attack can then ensue.

Besides keeping the red blood cells from clumping, aspirin also has an anti-inflammatory effect, explains Haidar Yassin, MD, of Long Island College Hospital in New York City.

"It's used in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease," Yassin says. "Those who take it for primary prevention are people at risk for a stroke or heart attack, being diabetic automatically raises an individual's risk."

Individuals who take aspirin for secondary prevention already have experienced cardiovascular disease.

Either way, it can be thought of as a preventive therapy.

"Aspirin is used for the sake of prevention," says Tharakaram Ravishankar, MD, chief of endocrinology at Glen Cove Hospital in Glen Cove, NY. "It can reduce the chance of stroke and heart disease, and the positive benefits are often more than the negative."

But it's not risk-free. "It does increase the risk of bleeding," Yassin says. "In fact, if you have a history of ulcers, there's probably a two or three-fold increase in the risk of bleeding. So it is important to weigh the benefits against the risk of a bleed."

In other words, it's not for everyone. If you're allergic to aspirin, have a tendency to bleed, have liver disease, are under age 21, or have had recent bleeding in the GI tract, you should not take aspirin.

If your doctor recommends a daily aspirin, you'll want to be on the lowest possible dose. Generally, daily aspirin therapy consists of a pill that has between 75 and 162 mg of aspirin. Baby aspirin is considered low-dose aspirin. Ask about the enteric-coated form, which is coated with a substance that permits it to go through the stomach without dissolving. Instead, it gets absorbed into the intestine, which results in a lowered risk of side effects.

It's also important not to take other drugs besides aspirin without telling your doctor. "If you start taking, say, Motrin or Alleve, you will have an increased risk of side effects from aspirin," says Ravishankar.



"Living with Diabetes: Aspirin." American Diabetes Association.