An aspirin a day for everybody? Not so fast

Some time ago, my husband started to take an aspirin a day. His doctor told him it's a good way to prevent heart attacks and other bad things.

Ever since he started on his daily aspirin regimen, he's been urging, pushing, nagging me to do the same. Everyone he knows takes an aspirin a day, even if it's just a baby aspirin. He can't understand why I refuse to do it.

I'm not sure either, but here's my thinking: Aspirin is strong stuff. I like to save it for important occasions. I don't feel comfortable taking powerful drugs unless they are necessary. I'm not convinced that taking an aspirin a day is necessary or even a good idea, if you are a relatively healthy person.

And what about the effect too much aspirin can have on your gastrointestinal tract? Thanks but no thanks. I've held him off for years, but he keeps coming back.

I bring up our little family disagreement because it happens in the best of homes. One partner believes one thing is good medicine; the other partner believes something else. What's a couple to do?

There's no point in fighting about it. Confrontation rarely results in behavior change. I've explained my thinking to him and he's explained his doctor's thinking to me and there we are, with different and opposing points of view. I'm not surprised.

What did surprise me was an interview I read the other day in the Nutrition Action Newsletter with Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Joann Manson, also the chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She's on my side, so I think she's speaking the truth:

Asked whether most women should take aspirin, she responded: "At this point, we don't routinely recommend aspirin for women at low risk of heart disease because we don't know if the benefits outweigh the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and even hemorrhagic stroke."

She added that results from the Women's Health Study, a trial testing low-dose aspirin and vitamin E in low-risk women, should be available within a year, "so stay tuned."

The evidence, Dr. Manson goes on, is "very strong that aspirin is beneficial if you're at high risk (for heart disease) or if you've had a heart attack, stroke, angina, angioplasty, bypass or a diagnosis of heart disease." Aspirin is also recommended for women with diabetes.

The moral of the story is that you can't take on someone else's health habit just because they want you to. Men and women are different - two species, I say - and what's good for the gander is not necessarily good for the goose, even one who is fortunate enough to be at low risk for heart disease.

I will stay tuned, as Dr. Manson suggests. And I'll clip the article and put it next to my husband's computer, just so we can continue the debate and maybe even learn something.

Kid fitness: Here's what I witnessed in my local gym the other day. A nice young woman, mother of two, was on the treadmill, running with earphones. Her 10-year-old son wandered in, bored, low energy. He tried to wiggle onto the elliptical cross-trainer but his mother noticed and yelled: "Don't do that. You'll hurt yourself."

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