Avoiding a First Heart Attack With Aspirin
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.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
American Heart Association. Aspirin in heart attack and stroke prevention. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4456. Accessed July 9, 2010.
American Heart Association. Risk factors and coronary heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4726. Accessed July 9, 2010.
Boltri JM, Akerson MR, Vogel RL. Aspirin prophylaxis in patients at low risk for cardiovascular disease: a systematic review of all-cause mortality. J Fam Pract. 2002;51:700-704.
Eidelman RS, Hebert PR, Weisman SM, Hennekens CH. An update on aspirin in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Arch of Intern Med. 2003;163:2006-2010.
Hennekens CH. Update on aspirin in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease. Family Practice Recertification. 2002; 24:3-12.
Pearson TA, Blair SN, Daniels SR, et al. AHA guidelines for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke: 2002 update. Circulation. 2002;106:388-391.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine website. Available at: http://www.annals.org/content/150/6/396.full. Published March 17, 2009. Accessed July 9, 2010.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Aspirin for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events: recommendations and rationale. Ann of Intern Med. 2002;136:157-160.
Last reviewed July 2010 by ]]>Brian Randall, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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