Drugs

Before Using Aspirin to Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke, Here is What You Should Know

Pill on tongue

Only a health care provider can determine whether regular use of aspirin will help to prevent a heart attack or stroke in your particular case. Aspirin can prevent these problems in some people but not in everyone, and it has important side effects. You should use daily aspirin therapy only after first talking to your health care provider, who can weigh the benefits and the risks.


Aspirin is often thought of as a harmless over-the-counter (OTC) drug that’s been relied on for years to treat pain and fever. Now you're hearing that it can also lower your risk of a heart attack and some kinds of strokes. Aspirin may seem like a quick-and-easy way to decrease these risks, but it's not as simple as you think.

 

What Studies Show 

Since aspirin was discovered more than a century ago, it has played a major role in treating headaches, fevers, and minor aches and pains for millions of people. Now studies show that because aspirin thins the blood, it can also help to lower the chances of a heart attack or a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain. But research has found it works only in certain people, specifically those who had a previous heart attack or stroke, or have disease of the blood vessels in the heart. It does not seem to work in people with healthier hearts and blood vessels.

Most health professionals agree that long-term aspirin use to prevent a heart attack or stroke in healthy people is unnecessary. If you are using aspirin to lower these risks and have not talked with a health professional about it, you may be putting your health at risk. You should ONLY use daily aspirin therapy under the guidance of a health care provider.

 

Aspirin spilling from bottle

Not Without Risks 

Aspirin has been known to help people living with some diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It can help prevent a heart attack or clot-related stroke by interfering with how the blood clots. But the same properties that make aspirin work as a blood thinner to stop it from clotting may also cause unwanted side effects, including bleeding into the brain or stomach.

Aspirin also can mix badly with prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs. People already using a prescription medicine that thins the blood such as warfarin, dabigatran (Pradaxa) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto) should always talk to a health professional before using aspirin, even occasionally.

Discuss the use of all medicines, vitamins, and dietary supplements with your health professional before taking aspirin daily. He or she will decide if the benefits of taking daily aspirin outweigh the risks in your particular case and can provide medical knowledge and guidance to help prevent unwanted side effects.

 

Dose Matters

Whatever purpose you are using daily aspirin for, how much you take matters. It's important to your health and safety that the dose you use and how often you take it is right for you. Your health professional can tell you the dosing and directions that will provide the greatest benefit with the least side effects.

Not all over-the-counter pain relievers contain aspirin. If your health care provider prescribes daily aspirin to lower the risk of a heart attack and clot-related stroke, read the labels carefully to make sure you have the right product. Some drugs combine aspirin with other pain relievers or other ingredients and should not be used for long-term aspirin therapy. If you have questions talk to a health professional.

 

Before you use aspirin to lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, talk to a health professional.  It could save your life.

FDA
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Phone: 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

Page Last Updated: 02/26/2014
Note: If you need help accessing information in different file formats, see Instructions for Downloading Viewers and Players.