According to the American Heart Association (AHA), you may benefit from taking aspirin on a daily basis if you’re at risk for heart attack, have had a heart attack, or have other forms of heart disease. Aspirin is a non-prescription strength medication that can help prevent the formation of blood clots in your arteries.
Blood clots can cut off the blood flow to your heart, causing a heart attack and damage to your heart muscle. The blood-thinning qualities of aspirin can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. However, it could lead to potentially dangerous side effects in some people. Consult your doctor before adding aspiring to your daily regimen of medications and supplements.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends aspirin therapy as a control measure for those who have existing heart disease, have had bypass surgery, angioplasty, a heart attack, or angina. You can take low-dose aspirin (81 mg) daily to prevent blood clots. Men who have a low risk of heart disease and haven’t suffered a heart attack also could benefit from a daily aspirin starting at age 45. Women without a history of cardiovascular disease may use aspirin as a prevention tool beginning at age 55. However, the benefits of aspirin may cease to outweigh the dangers in elderly adults over the age of 79 years old.
Aspirin isn’t the only treatment or prevention measure for heart disease. Lifestyle and diet modifications, such as weight loss and exercise, can help lower your risk more than a daily pill. Following a low-fat diet that’s rich in nutrients and fiber can also curb your risk.
Studies published in the January 2012 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine show that aspirin is more effective in preventing an initial cardiovascular event, such as a first heart attack, than in treating or preventing subsequent events in a person who already suffers from heart disease. The study’s critics, however, urge heart patients to continue their aspirin therapy until they have spoken to their doctor about the possible risks of the medication.
Is Aspirin Right for You?
Aspirin as a preventative tool for cardiovascular disease isn’t right for everyone. In some cases, it can do more harm than good. Individuals with certain allergies, conditions, or lifestyles should refrain from using aspirin. You may not be the ideal candidate for low-dose aspirin therapy if you fall into one or more of the following categories:
- history of ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding
- moderate alcohol use
- upcoming medical or dental procedures
- allergy or intolerance to aspirin or any of its ingredients
Other factors may come into play when determining the safety of aspirin for your health. Speak to your doctor before starting to take aspirin for heart disease prevention. Make sure they have a complete list of all other drugs, vitamins, and supplements you take on a daily basis. If you’re not a candidate for aspirin anti-platelet therapy, your physician may prescribe another type of blood-thinning medication to ensure that you don’t develop blood clots.
Take your aspirin at the same time every day with a full glass of water. The routine will make you more likely to remember your medication. Taking the pill with a small snack or meal may help you avoid stomach upset. If you forget to take a dose, don’t double it the next time you take it. Just take the next dose as you normally would, at the regular time.
Risks and Side Effects
Excessive bleeding is the most serious potential side effect of prolonged use of aspirin. Abnormal bleeding can manifest itself through a number of symptoms, including:
- blood in your urine
- black, tar-colored stool
- menorrhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding)
- difficulty staunching bleeding from a cut
- vomiting or coughing up blood
Aspirin also can affect your respiratory and digestive systems system. Stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea may occur. Seek immediate medical attention if you:
- have trouble breathing
- feel lightheaded or dizzy
- experience hives or swelling in the face, mouth, or tongue