Should I Take Aspirin for Heart Disease Prevention?

Posted by on Sep 18, 2012 in News | 2 comments

You may have heard from the media, friends, family members, or coworkers that aspirin can lower your chance of heart attack. Thus, you may wonder whether you should take a daily aspirin to prevent heart disease. Before you go to the pharmacy and purchase over-the-counter aspirin, there are a few things you need to know.

What is aspirin and how does it work?

Aspirin is one of the medications in NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) group. It’s been used for pain relief and to reduce swelling. In recent years, low dose aspirin is used to prevent heart disease. Heart disease includes heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease in which there is poor circulation in the legs. At low dosages aspirin prevents platelets (blood cells that play a role in blood clotting) from clumping. Without platelets, you can bleed to death when you cut yourself or have an injury to your tissues and organs. At the same time, platelets can form clots in the coronary arteries that supply your heart and can cause a decrease in blood flow. When there’s insufficient blood supply to the heart, it results in heart attack due to the death of heart muscles. Reduced blood flow to the brain can result in stroke. Therefore, the role of low dose aspirin is to prevent platelets from clumping and keep the normal blood flow in the arteries.

Who should take daily aspirin?

You shouldn’t take daily aspirin unless prescribed by the doctor. Your doctor may put you on daily aspirin if you fit any of the following criteria:

  • If you have a history of heart attack
  • If you have a history of ischemic stroke or transient ischemic stroke (TIA)
  • If you have stable or unstable angina
  • If you have had a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG procedure)
  • If you have had angioplasty
  • If you have atrial fibrillation (A-Fib)
  • If you have heart valve disease

Your doctor will decide what dosage is right for you. Some people may get baby aspirin (81 mg) while others may get a regular strength (325 mg). If you take ibuprofen or other NSAIDs for chronic conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain, or back pain, talk to your doctor.

People who do not belong to the above group

You’re at a higher risk for heart disease if you have diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, and higher blood pressure than the general population, but it doesn’t mean you should start taking daily aspirin on your own. Many studies have been done on men and women who did not have heart disease and who are over 55 years of age. Aspirin, like many other medications, comes with side effects, such as bleeding more than usual when you have a cut. Some people experience stomach bleeding, especially if they have ulcer. Another concern is hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain). Aspirin also causes stomach upset side effects such as nausea, vomiting, heartburn, and stomach pain. This has lead some to believe that the benefit of aspirin on heart disease is greater than the risk of side effects.

Many studies concluded that whether you should be on daily aspirin must be determined by an individual’s risks and benefits from aspirin. Some people may benefit more from aspirin, while it may cause more harm to others. Hence, the decision should be made by your primary care doctor.


Contributed by Patricia Hsiao M.D.
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2 Comments

  1. The answer is both, paobrbly?Ten years ago I believed there had to be a genetic disposition in order to develop type 2 diabetes, now I believe that lifestyle and/or genetics can bring the disease on. There are numerous studies that show people who have no history of diabetes in their families are developing the disease but to be fair it isn’t always possible to know if their is a family history of diabetes since many are never diagnosed and/or are not telling anyone they have it.That site that Mz Lamb gave is outdated, it hasn’t changed or been updated in 6 years that I know of.

  2. I have been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thanks , I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your site?

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