For more than 100 years, aspirin has been used as a pain reliever. Since the 1970s, aspirin has also been used to prevent and manage heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, you should take “baby aspirin” (81 mg aspirin) if your doctor tells you that you are at risk of having a heart attack or if you have survived a heart attack. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends aspirin therapy for only patients who have heart disease or who have had a heart attack or stroke. The FDA states that taking aspirin creates a risk of bleeding that outweighs the benefits of taking aspirin for people who do not have a history of heart attack or stroke.
How does aspirin benefit my heart?
- Prevents blood clots. Aspirin blocks factors in the blood that cause blood clots to form. Blood clots are good when they stop bleeding, but harmful when they clog the arteries. Clogged arteries (atherosclerosis) can lead to heart attack and stroke.
- Reduces the risk of future heart attack and ischemic stroke if you have a history of these conditions.
- Reduces the risk of death. If you take aspirin while you are having a heart attack, your risk of survival is better and you will have much less damage to your heart.
- Low-dose aspirin may also decrease risk of certain types of cancer.
Is Aspirin Therapy right for me?
Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin. Tell your doctor if you are allergic to aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen. Aspirin is recommended for people who have been diagnosed with heart and vascular disease, including:
- Prior ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
- Prior heart attack or symptoms of heart attack
- Angina (chest pain)
- Prior bypass surgery, angioplasty or stent(s) as a treatment for heart disease
How much aspirin should I take?
Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to start aspirin therapy and how much aspirin you should take. The recommended dose is 81 mg (one “baby aspirin”) per day, but your doctor may want you to take a different amount.
How should I take aspirin?
- Do not take aspirin on an empty stomach. Take it with a meal and drink a full glass of water.
- Do not break, crush, or chew extended-release tablets or capsules — swallow them whole. You can chew, crush or dissolve chewable aspirin tablets
- Do not take aspirin in place of other medications or treatments recommended by your doctor.
- Do not drink alcohol while taking aspirin. Taking aspirin with alcohol increases your risk of stomach bleeding.
- While taking aspirin, ask your doctor which medications are safe to take for pain relief or colds. Read the labels of all pain relievers and cold products to make sure they are aspirin-free.
- Other medications that contain aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may cause bleeding problems if you take them while taking aspirin.
- Before any surgical or dental procedure or emergency treatment, tell the doctor or Dentist that you take aspirin. You might need to stop taking aspirin 5 to 7 days before dental work or surgery.
- Do not stop taking aspirin or any medication without asking your doctor.
What are the risks of aspirin therapy?
All medications have risks, and it is important to talk to your doctor before you start taking any medication. The risks of aspirin are:
- Increased risk of bleeding and ulcers in your stomach
- During a stroke, aspirin increases the risk of bleeding into your brain
- Common side effects of aspirin include nausea, upset stomach, nervousness, and trouble sleeping. Call your doctor if any of these symptoms become severe or do not go away
Call your doctor right away if you have:
- Severe stomach pain or heartburn
- Severe nausea or vomiting
- Any signs of unusual bleeding, such as blood in your urine or stools, nosebleeds, any unusual bruising, heavy bleeding from cuts, black tarry stools, coughing up blood, unusually heavy menstrual bleeding or unexpected vaginal bleeding, vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Signs of allergy, including hives, facial swelling, rash
- Asthma attack
- Ringing in the ears
- Severe headache pain
DO NOT Take Aspirin if:
- You are allergic to aspirin
- You are pregnant (unless your doctor tells you it is ok)
- You are scheduled for surgery or a dental procedure (contact your doctor or dentist to see if/ when you should stop taking aspirin)
- You are a heavy drinker
- You are under the age of 18 and recovering from a viral infection such as the flu or chicken pox
- You have an ulcer or any bleeding problem
- You take other pain medications, such as Motrin, on a regular basis