What Taking Aspirin Every Day Really Does To Your Body

Of all the medications available on the market today, perhaps none are as well known as aspirin. With its roots of use as medicine going back to circa 3,000 B.C., the compound salicylic acid, derived from willow root, is today packaged and sold in every drug store across the country (per The Pharmaceutical Journal). And although many people take aspirin only as a cure for headaches or inflammation, other folks never leave their medicine cabinets unstocked. Approximately 30 million Americans over the age of 40 take aspirin every day, with the widespread use of it for its potential benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease, as Science Daily discusses.

But here's the thing: According to the same research, well over 6 million U.S. adults take aspirin every day without their doctor recommending they do so. And here's where things might become problematic. Despite aspirin being widely lauded for its benefits for cardiovascular health in some adults, taking it daily can come with a whole host of side effects that you might rather not have. And we're here to lay them all out for you.

If you have a history of heart conditions, aspirin could help bolster your heart health

Millions of people worldwide take aspirin for a wide range of effects, but perhaps the most well known of them is the medicine's effects on the heart. And it is indeed true that taking low doses of aspirin (also known as baby aspirin) can reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event, in some cases at least (per the Cleveland Clinic). "If you've had a heart attack, or a stent, or bypass surgery, or some other manifestation of coronary heart disease, then aspirin is recommended in order to prevent a recurrent event," says Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute chief academic officer and cardiologist Steven Nissen. This is thanks to the medicine's anti-clotting effects, reducing the ability of your platelets to stick together and coagulate, and therefore keeping your arteries clear of any obstructions that could cause another incident.

However, this may only be useful if you've already experienced a heart condition or event. The idea that aspirin can be taken by anyone without risk is a false one, according to Nissen, who says that "there has been evidence for many years that for patients who have never had a cardiovascular event, taking daily aspirin poses as many risks as benefits." If you're thinking about taking aspirin every day, talk with your doctor about whether it will have any real benefit.

Your aspirin might be causing liver damage

Taking aspirin is not without its risks, and your organs could be one of the areas in your body that feels the impact. More specifically, your liver may come under stress and potentially sustain damage if you're taking aspirin daily, according to research published in LiverTox.

When especially high doses of aspirin are taken, hepatoxicity (also known as toxic liver disease) can occur, where toxins form in the organ as it tries to process the medication in your blood and end up damaging it (per WebMD). This can lead to different types of liver damage, as well as symptoms like jaundice. It's worth pointing out, however, that the LiverTox research indicates that liver damage that's been observed as a result of aspirin is generally short-lived, and in the grand scheme of things, mild. Liver function will generally return to normal following injury as a result of taking aspirin, and more severe instances of liver damage, like acute liver failure or chronic liver injury, have yet to be observed as a direct result of ingesting the medication. Nonetheless, it's sensible to stick to the recommended dosage of aspirin and to be aware of its potential impact.

Taking aspirin every day could reduce inflammation

From headaches to joint pain, aspirin is used to cover it all. And so it should be no surprise that if you're taking aspirin regularly, you can expect inflammation to be reduced and the pain that often accompanies it. Aspirin is technically classified as a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), according to MedicineNet. When your body sustains an injury, or a part of it becomes inflamed through different means, it releases prostaglandins, chemicals that increase the swelling in said body part and lead to pain and discomfort. Aspirin and other NSAIDs block these prostaglandins from being made, leading to lower levels of inflammation and swelling.

Given that inflammation is involved in an enormous amount of illnesses and injuries, aspirin has a wide-ranging function. Taking it can help to relieve pain, swelling, and other symptoms of anything, including migraines, joint pain, the flu, muscle injuries, and even menstrual cramps. Aspirin could also be used to treat longer-term conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus or osteoarthritis. Keep in mind, however, that aspirin is best tolerated by adults, and for children and teenagers experiencing inflammation, ibuprofen or acetaminophen is recommended instead, MedicineNet says.

By taking aspirin every day, you're increasing your likelihood of stomach ulcers

Where do you think that aspirin ends up every day? In your stomach, of course. And once it's there, it may produce some pretty unpleasant side effects, increasing your risk of stomach conditions. "When you take aspirin, the level of stomach protection is decreased and you're more likely to bleed," explains University of Michigan Medical School associate professor of internal medicine Mark Fendrick (via WebMD). This can lead to a twofold increase in the risk of developing a stomach ulcer, as well as bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract.

This can happen even if the aspirin you're taking is coated, according to Fendrick. And it's no small matter. More than 300,000 people worldwide died as a result of a peptic ulcer in 2013, according to research published in BMJ Open Gastroenterology. Gastrointestinal bleeding, meanwhile, can lead to chest and abdominal pain, dizziness, and fainting, and could even lead to shock, says the Mayo Clinic. It's worth bearing in mind that for a lot of people, taking aspirin every day for potential heart health benefits may not offset the risk that it poses to your stomach.

If you have epilepsy, taking aspirin daily could increase your risk of seizures

Managing epilepsy is imperative to make sure your condition doesn't get in the way of your everyday life. But one thing that might throw your management off course is taking aspirin every day, which may spike your risk of experiencing seizures. This may particularly be the case as aspirin, as a blood-thinning medication, may alter the quantity of any anti-seizure medicines you're also taking, according to Epilepsy.com. Doing this could lead to your epilepsy medicine being less effective.

However, in other situations, taking aspirin may reduce your risk of seizure. Research published in Neurological Research examined the effects of taking aspirin every day on seizure incidence by giving a daily dose of the medicine to chronically epileptic mice. It was found that when the mice were given higher doses of aspirin, the number of times they had seizures was lessened, and they lasted for a shorter time. Bear in mind, however, that this was an animal study and so further research is needed. You should consult with your doctor before taking any new medications in combination with old ones.

A daily dose of aspirin may impact your risk of developing cancer

Aspirin has long been lauded for its benefits for heart health in certain individuals, but what about its impact on other chronic conditions? 

Well, as it turns out, it could have a notable effect on how cancer develops, and your likelihood of mortality from cancer, as Cancer Research UK discusses. One review published in ecancermedicalscience seemed to show some promising results. Examining 18 different cancers among approximately a quarter of a million participants, it found that mortality was reduced by around a fifth when people took aspirin. This seemed to be the case over several cancers examined, and not isolated to just one specific type.

Researchers concluded that aspirin could be useful as an accompanying treatment for cancer. That said, Cancer Research UK states that aspirin should not be taken as an alternative for any other cancer treatments, and also that further research is needed to determine exactly how useful aspirin could be. Aspirin may also be useful for people who have Lynch syndrome, which may increase the risk of developing bowel cancer.

You may develop an increased risk of bleeding in the brain

Given that it's so widely available, taking aspirin every day might seem like it comes with no significant health risks. But just because something's available over the counter doesn't mean it can't be potentially dangerous, folks. One of the most troubling risks of taking aspirin every day is its potential to increase the risk of bleeding in your brain. Research published in JAMA Neurology examined the impact of taking low-dose aspirin amongst people who didn't have any pre-existing cardiovascular conditions and found that intracranial hemorrhage was more common, especially among Asian populations and individuals who had a lower BMI (body mass index).

Still, despite the higher risk of brain bleeding, researchers found that the overall increase was still pretty low, with aspirin appearing to cause an additional two cases of intracranial hemorrhage per thousand people. Despite this, it's still super important to be aware that it's still a risk you take when you take aspirin every day. Intracranial hemorrhages can lead to long-term issues and may limit your speech, movement, and cognitive ability, says the Cleveland Clinic. This may result in the need for rehabilitation.

Taking large amounts of aspirin daily can impact your kidneys

Boy, our kidneys sure do put in a lot of work, don't they? Every day, they toil away, removing waste products from our bodies and making sure we keep trucking along. But now and again, we can put them under serious strain, and taking aspirin every day is one of the ways we can do it. 

As an analgesic, taking aspirin limits the blood flow to your kidneys. When taken in especially high quantities, this can result in a reduction in kidney function (per the National Kidney Foundation). While this loss of function can be short-lived, it can also be permanent. For people who don't have a pre-existing kidney condition, this loss in kidney function usually only occurs when doses are significantly higher than recommended, usually if people are taking between 6-8 tablets or more daily. Generally, aspirin is safe for people who don't have a pre-existing kidney condition. 

If you do have lower kidney function, however, taking aspirin is not advised, as it can produce a higher risk of bleeding and potentially further damage to your kidneys.

Giving aspirin to a child or teenager every day could be seriously dangerous

With aspirin bottles available in pretty much any store you walk into, it's easy to assume that it's been formulated to be safe for everyone. But for your kid, it may be a different story. 

Giving aspirin to a younger child or teenager can be incredibly risky in certain situations, particularly when they're experiencing or recovering from a viral infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. Using the drug to treat commonplace infections like chickenpox or the flu in children can result in a condition named Reye's syndrome.

While Reye's syndrome is relatively rare and usually passes, it can also be incredibly dangerous and potentially fatal. The condition can cause swelling in the brain and liver and may produce weakness, paralysis, and seizures. Long-term, Reye's syndrome may result in brain damage. It's for this reason why other medications like Tylenol and Advil are advised to treat viral conditions, except in children and younger people who have chronic conditions that might benefit from taking aspirin.

Taking aspirin every day may cause an interaction with other medications you're taking

Second by second, our bodies are working to keep things in homeostasis. And any medications we take for pre-existing conditions can help our systems keep things ticking normally. Unfortunately, when we're combining medications without thinking about it, the drug interactions they can cause can change their efficacy, and there are several combos between aspirin and other meds that you should watch out for, as WebMD shows.

As aspirin can reduce platelet action and prevent blood clots, taking it with any other blood-thinning medication could have a potent effect. Warfarin and heparin, both also used to treat blood clots, are two drugs that can interact with the painkiller. Mifepristone, acetazolamide, and corticosteroids like prednisone (an anti-inflammatory commonly used to treat arthritis and breathing conditions, per WebMD) may also have different effects if taken alongside aspirin. Bear in mind, too, that the NSAID doesn't just interact with prescribed medications, but can also have an impact on herbal medication you're taking (like ginkgo biloba). Ensure that you're speaking carefully with your doctor or pharmacist about any potential interactions that your regular medicine might have with over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin, as well as other common NSAIDs like ibuprofen.

Your bones may become stronger

How often do you think about your bones on a day-to-day basis? If you're anything like us, the general busyness of life means that thinking about bone health happens fleetingly. But the truth is, virtually everything that passes our lips can have an impact on our skeleton — including the aspirin we take.

Luckily, it's good news if you're taking aspirin daily, with the medication appearing to improve bone health, according to a study published in BMJ Open. Researchers looked at the impact of taking aspirin in older individuals, and found that taking it regularly seemed to result in greater bone mineral density, an essential benchmark for how strong our bones are and for assessing osteoporosis risk (per the Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center). This also translated to a lower risk of broken bones in the study. 

That said, researchers concluded that the improvement in bone mineral density and the reduction in fracture risk was modest, but it could point toward future therapeutic treatments of aspirin for older adults.

In large doses, aspirin may be a cause of tinnitus

People who experience tinnitus (and up to 20% of the population do so, according to the Mayo Clinic) will know how irritating the ringing sound can be. And although tinnitus is usually caused by another medical condition, it may also be caused by external factors like your aspirin intake, according to Hearing & Balance Clinic. This is largely down to the compound that makes up aspirin, salicylic acid. Taking too much salicylic acid can result in salicylate toxicity, and when this happens, you might start to experience a high-pitch ring in your ears or hearing loss entirely, according to research published in Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience.

However, tinnitus is usually only caused by aspirin if the amount you're taking is particularly high — way more than if you're popping the occasional aspirin for a headache, or are on a low dosage for a heart condition, Hearing & Balance Clinic says. The tinnitus will also usually stop if you stop taking it, restoring your normal hearing. Nonetheless, if you start to hear a ringing in your ears, it might be time to look at how much aspirin you really need.

Taking aspirin every day could benefit your skin health

The aspirin we take is almost always intended to affect something on the inside of our bodies, be that a painful headache or our risk of heart disease. But did you know that taking aspirin every day will also affect the outside of our bodies?

One slightly surprising side effect of aspirin is how it can benefit our skin health, as the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute's chair Michael F. Roizen discusses (via U.S. News). This is all down to its anti-inflammatory capacities, which can assist in maintaining the collagen in your skin. When your collagen remains healthy, so does your skin's appearance, with wrinkles and sagging becoming less evident.

The acetylsalicylic acid that aspirin's made of may also help with acne prevention, and taking aspirin can also reduce the appearance of rosacea. And if that isn't enough, these tiny pills could also be useful in reducing the risk of more profound skin problems, according to research in the Indian Dermatology Online Journal. Taking aspirin could bring down the effects of sunburn, and may even lower your risk of developing melanoma. And you thought this pill was only useful for your hangover!

How do you know if you're taking too much aspirin?

Although aspirin can be helpful in a variety of ways, it's entirely possible to have too much of a good thing. And like all medicines, it's prudent to keep an eye on how much aspirin you're taking, as well as any symptoms that you're taking too much. 

If you're taking aspirin daily as advised by your health care provider, you'll likely be given between 75 milligrams and 325 milligrams a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. It's also entirely possible for your dose to be much lower than this if you're taking aspirin to protect your heart health, with an average dose usually at around 81 milligrams. For aspirin taken as pain relief or to reduce inflammation, the standard dose is 325 to 650 milligrams (one to two tablets) every 3-4 hours, up to six times a day, per RxList.

It's important not to exceed the correct dosage because if you do, there can be some pretty unpleasant consequences. In the worst-case scenario, you can experience aspirin poisoning, an early warning sign of which can be a ringing in the ears (per WebMD). A fever, dehydration, vomiting, and weakness can follow, and aspirin poisoning may even lead to a loss of consciousness and entering into a coma. If you suspect you've taken too much aspirin, consult with your doctor, and if you're experiencing more extreme symptoms, call 911 as soon as possible.