“Daily aspirin therapy can be a lifesaving option,” says Enakshi Bajpai, DO, Cardiologist at Inspira Health and member of the Cardiac Partners at Cooper and Inspira network. “But it isn’t for everyone. It’s important to understand the benefits and risks before taking any type of antiplatelet drug.”
If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor will likely recommend that you take a daily aspirin unless you have a serious allergy or history of bleeding. If you have a high risk of having a first heart attack, your doctor will likely recommend aspirin after a comprehensive evaluation of your individual condition.
How can aspirin prevent a heart attack or stroke?
Dr. Bajpai explains, “Aspirin interferes with your blood’s clotting action. When you bleed, your blood’s clotting cells, called platelets, build up at the site of your wound. The platelets help form a plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel to stop bleeding. But this clotting can also happen within the vessels that supply your heart and brain with blood. This prevents blood flow and can cause a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets, possibly preventing those types of cardiovascular events.”
Am I a candidate for a daily aspirin regimen?
Your doctor may suggest daily aspirin therapy if you meet certain criteria, such as:
- You’re within a certain age range, generally between 50 to 69 years
- You’ve already had a heart attack or stroke
- You’ve never had a heart attack but are at high risk for one based on other factors
- You haven’t had a heart attack, but have had a stent placed, have had coronary bypass surgery, or have complications from angina
- You have diabetes
“Although aspirin has been recommended in the past for certain groups of people without a history of heart attack, there’s some disagreement among experts about whether the benefits of aspirin outweigh its potential risks,” states Dr. Bajpai. According to the FDA, the benefits of daily aspirin therapy don’t outweigh the risk of bleeding in people with a low risk of heart attack. The higher your risk of heart attack, the more likely it is that the benefits of daily aspirin outweigh the risk of bleeding.
What are the risks?
“Because aspirin thins the blood, it can cause several complications,” says Dr. Bajpai. Tell your doctor if any of these situations apply to you.
- Known aspirin allergy or intolerance
- Risk of gastrointestinal bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke
- Regular alcohol consumption
- Undergoing any simple medical or dental procedures
- Older than 70
There is a risk of stomach problems, including stomach bleeding, for people who take aspirin regularly. Alcohol use can increase these gastrointestinal risks. Dr. Bajpai recommends, “If you are told to take aspirin, ask your doctor if it is safe for you to drink alcohol in moderation.”
The bottom line…
Although aspirin may be able to help certain patients in specific situations, there are many other things an at-risk patient can do to reduce the risk of having a first, or repeat, heart attack or stroke. Healthy lifestyle changes, increased levels of exercise, and good sleep habits are all ways to improve your cardiovascular health. If these good habits are established and your health does not improve, it may be time to discuss adding aspirin therapy to your daily routine. But as Dr. Bajpai says, “The best way to know if you can benefit from aspirin therapy is to ask your health care provider. Never start daily aspirin therapy on your own!”
If you are curious to know if you might benefit from daily aspirin therapy, make an appointment with a Cardiac Partners specialist near you.