HEART CARE

Should You Take an Aspirin a Day for Heart Health?

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
 | 
September 06, 2017

Everyone’s situation is different, but should you take an aspirin a day to protect against heart disease even if you're healthy? Learn more.

In people who have had a heart attack or stroke, it is widely known that taking a daily low-dose aspirin significantly reduces the risk of having another heart attack or stroke.

Given that fact, researchers have looked at whether taking an aspirin a day might protect people who have no known cardiovascular disease. They have discovered that aspirin can protect against certain cardiovascular events.

 

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A heart attack happens when fatty deposits called plaques rupture and form a blood clot. The blood clot blocks off flow of blood through the artery. Aspirin can prevent heart attacks because it reduces the chance that blood clots will form inside any diseased arteries.

One study found that the body of evidence supports a role for aspirin in both secondary and primary prevention of heart attack and stroke in selected population groups. As a simple and inexpensive prophylactic measure for cardiovascular disease, aspirin should be carefully considered in all at-risk adult patients.

Aspirin is the most widely used medication. In 2007, it was reported that nearly 20 percent of adults in the U.S. reported taking an aspirin a day or every other day, with the number increasing to 50 percent in those age 65 and older.

In the past 30 years, nine major trials have examined the benefit of aspirin for primary cardiovascular disease prevention. The preponderance of evidence suggested that aspirin could prevent primary cardiovascular disease.

According to another study, aspirin has been evaluated in two primary prevention trials. In one study of male physicians, taking aspirin every other day had a 44 percent reduction in risk of heart attack.

“Aspirin therapy is of proven value in treatment of acute (heart attack) as well as long-term use in patients with a wide range of prior manifestations of cardiovascular disease. The more widespread use of aspirin in these patient categories will contribute to reductions in cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality,” the study reported.

In a recent 2016 study, researchers report that for older people, daily aspirin can lower your risk of heart attack and certain cancers while leading to a longer life.

This was the latest in the debate over whether healthy people should take aspirin to prevent a first heart attack. Because aspirin helped prevent second heart attacks in people with heart disease, at first doctors started recommending that people at risk for heart problems start taking a low dose of aspirin every day (80 milligrams, or a “baby” aspirin), writes Alice Park of Time.

The lead investigator of the 2016 study recommends that, at least, people who meet recommended criteria for taking aspirin – including those at higher risk of heart problems – should be taking the drug.

“No matter how you look at it, the benefits are there. With [everyone taking it] the results are tempered, because other diseases happen, but clearly there is still benefit,” said David Agus, MD, at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. “We can’t tell everybody over 50 what they should do. The role of the physician is to explain risk and benefit and together with the patient make a decision.”

Remember that taking aspirin increases the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, especially with age. Still, the higher your risk of heart attack, the more likely the benefits of taking an aspirin a day outweigh the risks of bleeding.

 

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Updated:

September 06, 2017

Reviewed By:

Janet O’Dell, RN