Find out if aspirin is right for you for prevention of heart attack or certain types of stroke.
You may have heard that an aspirin taken every day can help lower the risk of heart attack or some types of stroke. Aspirin is inexpensive and available almost anywhere. It is sometimes called baby aspirin in a lower dose and is clearly marked for heart health. It is available over the counter. Why not take a daily aspirin to lower the risk of heart attack for men and lower the risk of stroke for women? It may not be right for you. Here’s why.
Always talk to your doctor first
Do not start taking an aspirin every day on your own. Aspirin may seem simple and safe. But aspirin is like all medicines. It is complex and can have unwanted side effects. Talk with your doctor before taking aspirin every day. Your doctor can decide whether a daily aspirin is right for you. He or she will look at your health, your age, your history of heart disease and the medications you are already taking.
Aspirin has its benefits but it also poses risks. Aspirin weakens the blood’s ability to clot. This can result in bleeding in the stomach or the brain for some people. Don’t take aspirin if you are:
- Allergic to aspirin
- Having a dental or medical procedure
- A regular alcoholic beverage drinker
- If you have bleeding in your stomach or are at risk for bleeding
- Taking other anti-inflammatory medicine
Aspirin may cause problems when you mix it with your other medications, including anticoagulants, which already lower your blood’s clotting power. Talk with your doctor about all medications, supplements and vitamins you are taking before you add a daily aspirin.
Aspirin and heart disease prevention
Healthy young adults do not need to take a daily aspirin to help prevent heart attack or stroke. A daily aspirin may be helpful for healthy older adults who have not had a heart attack or stroke. Healthy men from ages 45 to 79 may benefit from a daily aspirin to prevent heart attack, but not stroke. A daily aspirin may be helpful to prevent strokes in healthy women ages 55 to 79, but not heart attacks. Again, your doctor will guide you.
Risks for heart attack
The more risk factors you have, the greater the chance for you to have a heart attack. Know your risk factors and talk to your doctor about them. Risk factors include:
- You have diabetes.
- Your cholesterol is high.
- You are a smoker.
- You have high blood pressure.
Aspirin when you already have heart disease
You may have been diagnosed with heart disease or coronary artery disease. You may have experienced chest pain, heart attack or stroke. You and others with heart disease may benefit from taking aspirin daily. Your doctor will evaluate your current medications and health to determine if a daily aspirin is right for you.
Watch your dose
It is important that you follow your doctor’s recommendations for taking aspirin every day. Understand the amount (dose) of aspirin and the type of aspirin you can take. Be aware that there are many different pain relievers today and many do not include aspirin. Others may include aspirin along with other ingredients, or the dose may be wrong for you. Be sure to confirm with your doctor exactly how much and what type of aspirin he or she recommends, and how often you should take it.
• Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Talk with your health care provider about taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks. Accessed: 09/03/2013
• American Heart Association. Aspirin and heart disease. Accessed: 09/03/2013
• U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Drugs. Before using aspirin to lower your risk of heart attack or stroke, here is what you should know. Accessed: 09/03/2013
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart disease. Recommendations of aspirin for prevention of cardiovascular disease. Accessed: 09/03/2013