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Does low-dose Aspirin prevent heart attacks?

January 3, 2022

After years of hearing that older Americans should take a low-dose aspirin each day to protect their heart health, an influential health group just said that daily aspirin might be dangerous.

A pain reliever and blood thinner, aspirin reduces chances for blood clots. But this means even low doses can cause bleeding, mainly in the digestive tract or ulcers. Both can be life-threatening.

But, before you toss out your aspirin bottle, discuss what’s best for you with a doctor.

The latest guidelines are not absolute:

  • If you haven’t had a heart attack or stroke: Avoid the daily aspirin because the risk of aspirin-induced bleeding for adults in their 60s and older outweighs any potential benefits.
  • If you’re in your 40s: Low-dose aspirin may offer some heart-health benefits for adults who have no bleeding risks.
  • If you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke: Keep taking daily low-dose aspirin a doctor prescribed to prevent a recurrence.

Should You Take Aspirin?

Whatever you do, don’t start taking a daily aspirin without talking to a doctor. An occasional aspirin or two is safe for most adults to treat headaches, body aches, or fever. But using aspirin every day can have serious side effects.

A doctor who understands your medical conditions is in the best position to help you consider the advantages and risks of daily aspirin dosing. It can help protect you, but the treatment comes with some risks. A doctor can help you decide whether the risk of low-dose aspirin outweighs the risks from the conditions you have.

Generally, the risk of heart attack and stroke increases as a person ages. But the risk of bleeding from aspirin goes up even more. So:

  • For people who have a low risk of heart attack, the benefits of taking a daily aspirin are outweighed by the risks of bleeding.
  • For people who are at high risk of heart attack, the benefits of daily aspirin therapy are more likely to outweigh the bleeding risks.

How Does Aspirin Prevent Heart Attacks?

Aspirin interferes with the blood’s clotting action. When a person bleeds, clotting cells called platelets collect at the wound. They help form a plug that seals the opening in the blood vessel, stopping the bleeding.

But clotting can also occur within vessels that carry blood to the heart. If blood vessels are narrowed by fatty deposits in the arteries (atherosclerosis), a fatty deposit can tear and bleed into the inner wall of the artery, which then clots and prevents blood flow to the heart. This causes a heart attack.

Aspirin therapy reduces the clotting action, thus cutting the risk of heart attacks.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. That’s why it’s so important for people concerned about heart disease and stroke to discuss aspirin therapy with their doctors. Patients and doctors need to find the answer together.

Get the Care You Need

Ready to take the next step for a healthier life? Grady can help.  If you need a primary care physician, give us a call at (404) 616-1000. We’ll arrange an appointment at a Primary Care Center near you. Doctors there can treat most conditions and provide access to Grady’s unparalleled medical specialty expertise.

Daily Dose of Aspirin Isn't for Everyone

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