Aspirin was developed for relieving pain, inflammation and fever. But for over thirty years people have been using a low-dose daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks and some kinds of strokes. That’s a good idea for some people—but not for everyone.
There are two schools of thought about just who should take aspirin as a way to prevent cardiovascular problems. Read on to learn more and see where you fit.
And the take away in case you don’t have time to read further? Even if it seems right for you, aspirin is a drug, so talk to your doctor before you begin.
Aspirin thins blood and keeps it from clotting. It can prevent the blood clots that can block the flow of blood to the heart or brain—the clots that cause heart attack or stroke.
But aspirin can also cause bleeding, leading to problems in the stomach or brain. A brain or gut bleed can be life-threatening.
Aspirin is also risky if you’re pregnant or have uncontrolled high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, liver or kidney disease or asthma. It can also interact with other medications. Some people shouldn’t take it at all or need different doses.
So the trick is to figure out if the benefit of daily prophylactic (preventive) aspirin is greater than the risk for each individual.
A recommendation from the Food and Drug Administration says only one group clearly benefits from taking aspirin this way:
The American Heart Association agrees with this and adds to the list:
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found:
The usual recommended dose is 81 mg (a baby aspirin) to 325 mg (a regular strength tablet). You should visit with your health care professional if you should take aspirin and what amount is right for you.
If you’ve been taking aspirin this way and want to stop, don’t do it suddenly. Talk to your doctor about gradually reducing it. Stopping all at once can actually increase the risk of clots.