Aspirin for Reducing
Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke: KNOW THE FACTS
You can walk into any pharmacy, grocery or convenience store and buy
aspirin without a prescription. The Drug Facts label on medication
products, will help you choose aspirin for relieving headache, pain,
swelling, or fever. The Drug Facts label also gives directions that
will help you use the aspirin so that it is safe and effective.
But what about using aspirin for a different use, time period, or in a
manner that is not listed on the label? For example, using aspirin to
lower the risk of heart attack and clot-related strokes. In these cases,
the labeling information is not there to help you with how to choose and
how to use the medicine safely. Since you don't have the labeling
directions to help you, you need the medical knowledge of your doctor,
nurse practitioner or other health professional.
You can increase the chance of getting the good effects and decrease
the chance of getting the bad effects of any medicine by choosing and
using it wisely. When it comes to using aspirin to lower the risk of heart
attack and stroke, choosing and using wisely means:
Know the facts
Work with your health professional.
FACT: Daily use of aspirin is not right for everyone.
Aspirin has been shown to be helpful when used daily to lower the risk
of heart attack, clot-related strokes and other blood flow problems. Many
medical professionals prescribe aspirin for these uses. There may be a
benefit to daily aspirin use for you if you have some kind of heart or
blood vessel disease, or if you have evidence of poor blood flow to the
brain. However, the risks of long-term aspirin use may be greater than the
benefits if there are no signs of, or risk factors for heart or blood
Every prescription and over-the-counter medicine has benefits and
risks — even such a common and familiar medicine as aspirin. Aspirin use
can result in serious side effects, such as stomach bleeding, bleeding in
the brain, kidney failure, and some kinds of strokes. No medicine is
completely safe. By carefully reviewing many different factors, your
health professional can help you make the best choice for you.
When you don't have the labeling directions to guide you,
you need the medical knowledge of your doctor, nurse practitioner, or
other health professional.
FACT: Daily aspirin can be safest when prescribed by a medical health
Before deciding if daily aspirin use is right for you, your health
professional will need to consider:
Your medical history and the history of your family members
Your use of other medicines, including prescription and
Your use of other products, such as dietary supplements, including
vitamins and herbals
Your allergies or sensitivities, and anything that affects your
ability to use the medicine
What you have to gain, or the benefits, from the use of the medicine
Other options and their risks and benefits
What side effects you may experience
What dose, and what directions for use are best for you
How to know when the medicine is working or not working for this
Make sure to tell your health professional all the
medicines (prescription and over-the-counter) and dietary supplements,
including vitamins and herbals, that you use — even if only
FACT: Aspirin is a drug
If you are at risk for heart attack or stroke your doctor may prescribe
aspirin to increase blood flow to the heart and brain. But any
drug — including aspirin — can have harmful side effects, especially when
mixed with other products. In fact, the chance of side effects increases
with each new product you use.
New products includes prescription and other over-the-counter
medicines, dietary supplement, (including vitamins and herbals), and
sometimes foods and beverages. For instance, people who already use a
prescribed medication to thin the blood should not use aspirin unless
recommended by a health professional. There are also dietary supplements
known to thin the blood. Using aspirin with alcohol or with another
product that also contains aspirin, such as a cough-sinus drug, can
increase the chance of side effects.
Your health professional will consider your current state of health. Some medical
conditions, such as pregnancy, uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding
disorders, asthma, peptic (stomach) ulcers, liver and kidney disease,
could make aspirin a bad choice for you.
Make sure that all your health professionals are aware
that you are using aspirin to reduce your risk of heart attack and
FACT: Once your doctor decides that daily use of aspirin is for you,
safe use depends on following your doctor's directions.
There are no directions on the label for using aspirin to reduce the
risk of heart attack or clot-related stroke. You may rely on your health
professional to provide the correct information on dose and directions for
use. Using aspirin correctly gives you the best chance of getting the
greatest benefits with the fewest unwanted side effects. Discuss with your
health professional the different forms of aspirin products that might be
best suited for you.
Aspirin has been shown to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke,
but not all over-the-counter pain and fever reducers do that. Even though
the directions on the aspirin label do not apply to this use of aspirin,
you still need to read the label to confirm that the product you buy and
use contains aspirin at the correct dose. Check the Drug Facts
label for "active ingredients: aspirin" or "acetylsalicylic acid" at the
dose that your health professional has prescribed.
Remember, if you are using aspirin everyday for weeks, months or years
to prevent a heart attack, stroke, or for any use not listed on the
label — without the guidance from your health professional —
you could be doing your body more harm than good.