In recent years, you may have seen television ads promoting aspirin's ability to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in certain groups of people. You should know that deciding to take an aspirin a day is not as simple as it may seem. The FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) has launched a public education campaign to remind consumers that aspirin is not without risk; the decision to use aspirin to prevent a heart attack and stroke is safest when made in consultation with a health professional.
It's been about 100 years since aspirin was created. And in that time, it has played a major role in treating headaches, fever, and minor aches and pains for millions. Now there are studies showing that aspirin is helpful in lowering the chance of a heart attack and clot-related stroke.
Still, 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 the risk of heart attack and stroke and you haven't talked with a health professional about it, you may be putting your health at risk.
Aspirin can help prevent a heart attack or clot-related stroke by lowering the clotting action of the blood's platelets. But the same properties that make aspirin work in stopping blood from clotting may also cause unwanted side effects, such as stomach bleeding, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure, and other kinds of strokes. There may be a benefit to daily aspirin use if you have some kind of heart or blood vessel disease, or if you have evidence of poor blood flow to the brain. But only a doctor can tell you whether the risks of long-term aspirin use may be greater than the benefits.
If your health professional agrees to your use of daily aspirin treatment, you'll need his or her medical knowledge and guidance to help prevent unwanted side effects. Before deciding if daily aspirin use is right for you, your health professional will consider such factors as your medical and family history, your use of other medicines, your allergies and sensitivities, and what side effects you may experience.
Some medical conditions, such as pregnancy, high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, asthma, stomach ulcers, and liver and kidney disease, could make aspirin a bad choice for you. Aspirin is also a drug that can mix badly with other medicines (prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, herbals, or dietary supplements. People who are already using a prescribed medicine to thin the blood should talk to a health professional before using aspirin, even occasionally. It's important to discuss the use of all medicines, vitamins and dietary supplements with your health professional before using aspirin daily.
You should also discuss the different forms of aspirin products that might be best suited for you. Not all over-the-counter pain relievers have aspirin, so it's important to read the label carefully. Some drug products combine aspirin with other pain relievers or with certain other ingredients and should not be used as long-term aspirin treatment.
There are no directions on the label for using aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attack or clot-related stroke. Your health professional can provide the dose and directions that will give you the most benefit with the fewest side effects. Whether you are using aspirin daily to lower the risk of a heart attack or a clot-related stroke, or for any other purpose not listed on the aspirin's label, the dose does matter. It's important that the dose you use and the frequency with which you use it are right for you.