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Low-Dose Aspirin Therapy - Topic Overview

Why take low-dose aspirin?

Aspirin, the common pain reliever that has been in our medicine cabinets for more than a century, also has a talent for prevention.

Aspirin prevents blood clots from forming in your arteries. This can prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Who should take low-dose aspirin?

For people who have had a heart attack: Aspirin can help prevent a second heart attack. Your doctor has probably already prescribed low-dose aspirin for you.

For people who have had a stroke: Aspirin can help prevent a second stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is often a warning sign of an impending stroke.

For people who have never had a heart attack or stroke: Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day. Aspirin may reduce your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke if you have coronary artery disease or certain risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoking. If you have a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke, aspirin will have even more benefit for you.

Aspirin may also be used by people who:

For help on the decision to take low-dose aspirin, see:

Aspirin: Should I Take Daily Aspirin to Prevent a Heart Attack or Stroke?

Doctors use different guidelines to decide who should take daily aspirin. But no matter which guideline your doctor follows, he or she will look at your health and at your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Then you and your doctor will balance the benefits and the risks of taking a daily aspirin to see if a daily aspirin is right for you.

If you have a relatively low risk for a heart attack or stroke, the benefits of preventive aspirin therapy may be outweighed by the increased risk of bleeding problems.

Your doctor can help you know your risk of having a heart attack or stroke and the risk of bleeding from aspirin.

Who should not take low-dose aspirin?

People who have certain health problems shouldn't take aspirin. These include people who:

  • Have a stomach ulcer.
  • Have recently had a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.
  • Are allergic to aspirin.
  • Have high blood pressure that isn't under control.
  • Have asthma that is made worse by aspirin.

If you think you are having a stroke, do not take aspirin because not all strokes are caused by clots. Aspirin could make some strokes worse.

Gout can become worse or hard to treat for some people who take low-dose aspirin.

If you can't take aspirin, your doctor may have you take clopidogrel (Plavix) to help prevent a heart attack or a stroke.

If you take an anticoagulant, such as warfarin (Coumadin), talk with your doctor before taking aspirin, because taking both medicines can cause bleeding problems.

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