image for aspririn article You have probably heard that aspirin prevents heart attacks in people with heart disease. But did you know that it also works in healthy people without pre-existing cardiovascular problems? Research has shown that aspirin is effective in preventing first heart attacks in healthy people who have risk factors for the disease. It does this by staving off blood clots that can trigger heart attacks. But does this mean everyone should be taking aspirin therapy? According to the studies, the answer to that question is no, unless you have risk factors for the disease.

US Preventive Services Task Force

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of medical experts, recommends aspirin therapy in the following groups:

  • Men aged 45-79 to reduce the risk of heart attacks
  • Women aged 55-79 to reduce the risk of stroke

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aspirin therapy for people who have certain conditions, like heart attack, unstable angina, stroke, and transient ischemic attacks. Aspirin may also reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who are at high risk for these conditions.

Your Risk Factors

According to the AHA, major risk factors for heart disease include:

Consulting Your Doctor

If you think aspirin therapy may be right for you, be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. The discussion should take into account your calculated risk for heart disease, the known protective effects of aspirin, potential side effects (such as gastrointestinal bleeding), factors that increase your risk of side effects, and your personal preferences about medical care.

Factors to keep in mind during decision making include:

  • Aspirin doses of about 75 milligrams (mg) a day appear to be as effective as higher doses.
  • Enteric coated or buffered products do not clearly reduce the adverse gastrointestinal effects of aspirin.
  • The risk of bleeding side effects from aspirin is increased in people with uncontrolled high blood pressure and those taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents or blood-thinners. Some seniors—depending on their age and health condition—may also have a higher risk of adverse effects.