Aspirin Therapy: Right for Your Heart?
Daily aspirin helps many, but age, gender, and heart disease risks play a part. Is it right for you?
Your Heart Disease Risk and Aspirin Therapy continued...
Your doctor can calculate your cardiovascular disease risks based on the
- Your medical history
- High blood pressure
- Total and "good" cholesterol levels
- History of heart disease in close relatives
If you know your blood pressure and cholesterol, you can calculate your own
10-year risk of serious cardiovascular disease using the same tool that doctors
use. Called the "Framingham risk calculator," it's available online at:
If the benefits do outweigh the risks for you, how much aspirin should you
take? Talk to your doctor first. The standard dose is one baby aspirin (81
milligrams) a day. Higher doses are no more effective, and can cause more
Aspirin: Different Benefits for Men and Women
When it comes to heart attacks and strokes, men and women are not created
equal. Women develop cardiovascular disease later than men -- usually after
menopause, and often
well into their 70s. Their disease symptoms and survival can be very different
For many women, this difference means the risk of cardiovascular disease
doesn't justify aspirin until later in life. However, the risk of bleeding
while on aspirin also goes up with age, making the choice more complicated.
And women are different from men when it comes to the response to aspirin as
well, says Nanette Wenger, MD, spokesperson for the American Heart Association.
Based on study data:
- For healthy men aspirin seems to prevent heart attacks, but not
- For healthy women under 65, aspirin prevents strokes, but not heart
- For healthy women over 65, aspirin appears to prevent heart attacks
similarly to men.
In general, for healthy women under 65, an aspirin isn't recommended, says
Wenger. Again, it's best to talk to your doctor.
Most of all, it's important to recognize that taking aspirin doesn't reduce
the risk of cardiovascular disease nearly as much as good old-fashioned
measures like losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, and controlling
blood pressure and cholesterol. These measures can lower the risk of serious
disease by up to 80% according to some studies -- leaving aspirin in the
Yet aspirin is a valuable tool for people who want to do everything they can
to prevent heart attacks and stroke. After seeing her
doctor, Sandra Rose decided she was one of them. She decided to stay on her
aspirin, even though her cardiovascular risk was already low. "I wanted to
get it even lower," she said, despite the risk of bleeding. Knowing the
benefits, and the risks, let her make an informed choice.