Can aspirin help you survive a heart attack or ward one off if taken preventatively? Doctors have been aware of the cardiovascular benefits of aspirin for years, but that doesn’t mean we should all start taking a daily dose.
“Multiple research studies have confirmed that taking aspirin reduces the number of heart attacks and strokes in men and women, who do not have a history of heart disease,” says Fredric L. Ginsberg, M.D., clinical cardiologist at the Cooper Heart Institute.
But a daily aspirin regimen isn’t healthy for everyone. Although aspirin can fight blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes, high doses can increase the risk of bleeding. This can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding and strokes caused by bleeding, known as hemorrhagic strokes.
“An individual’s benefit from daily aspirin depends on the presence of other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, as well as the risk for gastrointestinal bleeding. Therefore, consulting your physician is important before beginning an aspirin regimen,” says Dr. Ginsberg.
Those who may benefit from aspirin therapy include:
- People with coronary artery disease (CAD) or atherosclerosis anywhere in the body (such as the brain or legs).
- Those who have had a prior heart attack.
- Anyone who has undergone bypass surgery to treat heart disease or has angina (chest pain).
- People with risk factors for heart disease, stroke, or a heart attack.
- Men over the age of 50.
- Those who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or ischemic stroke.
But, for some people, the drug has very little effect.
According to research by Dr. Francis Gengo of the Dent Neurologic Institute and the University at Buffalo, up to 20 percent of people who take aspirin don’t benefit from it at all. Also, taking aspirin for a long period of time may make your body more resistant to the benefits.
In addition, aspirin can interact with other over-the-counter supplements to create unwanted side effects. Saint John’s wort, for example, has known anti-clotting effects that can increase the rise of a patient bleeding dangerously.
While aspirin benefits the heart in several ways, it is important to consult with your physician to determine if it is the right choice for you. A trained cardiologist can determine if you will benefit from aspirin therapy, calculate the appropriate dosage and inform you of any potential side effects you should watch for.