In recent studies, selected patients who took one aspirin every other day had 50 percent fewer heart attacks than those who took no aspirin. Does this mean aspirin is the long-sought miracle drug that prevents heart attacks?
Not exactly. If you have heart disease, aspirin can reduce your risk of having a heart attack. But aspirin does not prevent heart disease. Nor does it reverse heart disease that’s already in progress. The only way to prevent heart disease is to reduce your risk factors-such as smoking, lack of exercise, excess weight, high percentage body fat and high cholesterol diets. Some risk factors, such as a family history of heart disease, cannot be reduced.
How Aspirin Works
Aspirin affects the way your blood clots. When you take aspirin, blood is less likely to form a clot that could lodge in a coronary artery already narrowed by heart disease, causing a heart attack. Aspirin is also beneficial during the first few hours after a heart attack and during recovery from a heart attack or from coronary bypass surgery.
When Aspirin Is Dangerous
Not everyone should be taking aspirin regularly. Frequent use of aspirin can cause symptoms ranging from stomach irritation to hearing loss in some people and it can be downright dangerous for others. Avoid aspirin if you have high blood pressure, a history of stroke in your family, a bleeding disorder, ulcers, liver or kidney problems or if you are taking the drug warfarin (trade name Coumadin).
Get Your Doctor’s Advice
Before taking aspirin for your heart, ask your doctor if you need aspirin therapy. In fact, always check with your doctor before taking any medication. And remember, no drug – not even aspirin – can prevent heart disease. Your best defense against heart disease is to reduce your risk factors-by making sensible lifestyle choices such as eating low-fat meals and getting regular, moderate exercise.