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Heart Disease Health Center

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Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke - Topic Overview

Why take 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 aspirin?

For people who have had a heart attack: Aspirin can help prevent a second heart attack. Your doctor has probably already prescribed 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 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.

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