Avoiding a First Heart Attack With Aspirin
by Elizabeth Smoots, MD
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:
American Heart Association TOP
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aspirin therapy for people who are considered to be at "high risk" of having a heart attack. A person is high risk if they have conditions such as established heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, chronic renal disease, or diabetes. People may also be at high risk they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and people who smoke.
Your Risk Factors TOP
According to the AHA, major risk factors for heart disease include:
Consulting Your Doctor TOP
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.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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Last reviewed September 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Last Updated: 9/12/2012