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Aspirin Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

But Aspirin Is Not Recommended for Everyone

By Marc Lallanilla

Updated February 10, 2009

(LifeWire) - Aspirin -- which has a main ingredient that has been used to relieve pain and inflammation for at least 2,000 years -- also might be recommended to help prevent heart disease.

Aspirin keeps blood cells called platelets from sticking together. Platelets perform an important role by clumping together to form a blood clot to stop bleeding caused by an injury. However, when platelets clump together in a narrow artery, the clot can block the artery, increasing the risk of a heart attack. By fighting the tendency of platelets to clot, aspirin can help keep arteries clear.

Aspirin Isn't Always Recommended

But there are risks associated with taking aspirin. Your healthcare provider will need to weigh the benefits against the risks before recommending it for you. Aspirin can cause upset stomachs and gastrointestinal bleeding; it can also increase bleeding because of its role in preventing blood clotting.

A 2008 study found that, although people with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease, aspirin may be of only limited benefit to them. Aspirin therapy may also not be recommended for patients with a history of peptic ulcers, liver disease, kidney disease, aspirin allergy or alcohol use.

Some People Might Benefit From Aspirin

Aspirin therapy is often recommended for people who have had a heart attack. It is also considered beneficial for those at high risk for one of these events, including people with inflammation of the arteries or atherosclerosis. It may also be recommended for patients who have had bypass surgery or angioplasty.

The usual recommended dose for aspirin therapy is between 75 and 100 mg a day. Because the average aspirin tablet is 325 mg, most people use a low-dose tablet (formerly called "baby aspirin") containing 81 mg.

To minimize the risks of stomach upset, aspirin should not be taken on an empty stomach. It's also recommended that patients on aspirin therapy avoid alcohol and talk to a healthcare provider before using any other pain medication.

Sources:

"Aspirin Doesn't Guard Diabetics Against Heart Disease." Medline Plus. 10 Nov. 2008. National Institutes of Health. 29 Jan. 2009 <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_71417.html>.



"Aspirin in Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention." americanheart.org. 2009. American Heart Association. 29 Jan. 2009 <http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4456>.



"Aspirin and Heart Disease." 10 Mar. 2005. University of Michigan Health System. 29 Jan. 2009 <http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/aha/aha_aspheart_car.htm>.



Hennekens, Charles H., "Patient information: Aspirin and cardiovascular disease." UpToDate for Patients. 25 Sep. 2008. 29 Jan. 2009 <http://www.uptodate.com/patients/content/topic.do?topicKey=hrt_dis/2908>.


LifeWire, a part of The New York Times Company, provides original and syndicated online lifestyle content. Marc Lallanilla is a New York-based freelance writer and editor. He has written extensively on health, science, the environment, design, architecture, business, lifestyle and travel.

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