Is Taking a Daily Aspirin Right for You?

The benefits of taking a daily low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke have been well publicized, but is taking an aspirin a day right for you?

If you've had a heart attack or stroke or you are at high risk of either, talk with your doctor to see if taking an aspirin daily could help you. Aspirin interferes with your blood's ability to clot. If your blood vessels are narrowed from atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries), a fatty deposit in your blood vessel can burst and a blood clot can form and block the artery, preventing blood flow to the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of your blood's clotting cells (platelets).

Although taking an occasional aspirin to treat a headache, body aches, or fever is usually safe, taking an aspirin a day can have serious side effects, including internal bleeding. Too much aspirin can also cause ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and hearing loss; increase your risk for a stomach ulcer; and trigger a serious allergic reaction.

If you've had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor has probably already talked to you about the benefits of taking a daily aspirin to prevent a second occurrence. If you have strong risk factors, but have not had a heart attack or stroke, the benefits may override possible side effects.

Risk factors for heart attack or stroke include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mm HG or higher)
  • Total cholesterol level of 240 mg/dL or higher
  • Low-density lipoprotein ("bad") cholesterol level of 130 mg/dL or higher
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of heart attack or stroke

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Taking a daily aspirin can have different effects between men and women and for women, among different age groups. If you are at risk for heart attack or stroke, ask your doctor if a daily aspirin is right for you, how it can benefit you, and what the possible risks may be.

Your questions may include:

  • Should I take a daily aspirin if I have another health condition?
  • What dose of aspirin is best for me?
  • What happens if I stop taking a daily aspirin?
  • What are possible drug interactions with daily aspirin therapy?
  • Is taking a coated aspirin a better option than regular aspirin?

Mayo Clinic. "Daily aspirin therapy: Understand the benefits and risks."