Aspirin for Heart Attack Prevention: Understanding Aspirin Therapy

Jory Cross by Jory Cross | Licensed since 2012
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This article was updated on: 09/15/2018

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Aspirin, the drug many people take for headaches or other pains, is a familiar fixture in many medicine cabinets. Some seniors take a daily low-dose aspirin for heart attack prevention. But aspirin therapy isn’t right for everyone, according to the Mayo Clinic.

How might aspirin therapy help prevent a heart attack?

Aspirin is considered a “blood thinner.” It reduces blood’s ability to form clots, which can clog your arteries, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This is why some people take aspirin for heart attack prevention.

Some 9-1-1 operators might recommend you take aspirin for a heart attack right away, even before the ambulance arrives, the American Heart Association reports. The operator should ask questions to try to find out if it’s safe for you to take an aspirin.

Should everyone take aspirin for heart attack prevention?

Aspirin therapy is not for everyone, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some doctors recommend daily aspirin for heart attack prevention in people who have had (or have a high risk of) a heart attack or stroke.

But researchers don’t agree on general guidelines on aspirin therapy for people in various age groups, especially when you’re not at high risk of a heart attack or stroke, the Mayo Clinic reports. In fact, Harvard Medical School notes that in 2014, the Food and Drug Administration denied a request from an aspirin manufacturer to claim that aspirin could prevent heart attacks and strokes in people who don’t have cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association and other health-based organizations, doctors should consider aspirin therapy on a case-by-case basis.

Please note: Always talk to your doctor before starting or stopping aspirin for heart attack prevention. If you take an aspirin every day and then stop, it can actually put you at risk of a heart attack, the Mayo Clinic reports. Stopping aspirin therapy suddenly can cause a “rebound effect” that causes a blood clot to form, which could clog your blood vessels.

Does aspirin for heart attack prevention work?

Research continues about aspirin and heart health. The American Heart Association says that aspirin helps prevent heart attack and stroke, particularly for those at risk. However, Harvard Medical School reported that in a study of people who didn’t have cardiovascular disease, aspirin didn’t prevent fatal heart attacks or strokes. The Mayo Clinic says that more research is needed about the benefits and risks of aspirin for heart attack prevention.

Does aspirin for heart attack prevention have risks?

Aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach, intestines, and even the brain, according to Harvard Medical School. If you’re thinking about taking aspirin for heart attack prevention, talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks for your particular situation. And remember, also ask your doctor first before stopping daily aspirin therapy, because stopping suddenly can be dangerous (according to the Mayo Clinic).

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