Aspirin can help prevent heart attack, but it's not for everybody

Healthy people, though, don’t need a daily aspirin for heart health and in fact, it could harm them.

Aspirin helps reduce clots that can form in the blood vessels. Clotting can cause a heart attack or stroke.

“Aspirin is a life-saving medication that is cheap,” said Malec Mokraoui, MD, medical director at Carle Heart and Vascular Institute. Physicians recommend most at-risk patients start taking 81 milligrams of aspirin a day (a chewable baby aspirin), which could increase to 325 milligrams a day (one regular strength tablet).

Dr. Mokraoui endorses the Mayo Clinic advice that people should take a daily aspirin if:

• They’ve had a heart attack or stroke.
• They’ve had a stent placed in an artery or have had heart bypass surgery.
• They have angina (chest pain due to coronary artery disease).
• They are at a high risk for heart attack.
• They have diabetes and have at least one other heart disease risk factor, and they are a man older than 50 or a woman older than 60.

There are some risks from taking aspirin daily include gastrointestinal bleeding, bleeding in the brain and allergic reaction. 

“If a person is healthy, we do not recommend the risk. But for someone who has heart disease or is at risk for a heart attack or stroke, the benefits outweigh the risks,” Dr. Mokraoui commented.

Those who are allergic to aspirin should consult an allergist, who can offer treatment to help them tolerate the drug.

“Get desensitized now so you can take aspirin in the future. Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with heart disease or have a heart attack. If you are having a heart attack, taking an aspirin immediately can help save your life,” Dr. Mokraoui explained.

“As always, talk with your doctor to make sure aspirin is right for you.”