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Aspirin Can Help Prevent Heart Attacks, Stroke -- But It's Not for Everyone


Side effects can include ulcers -- particularly in the stomach and in the first part of the small intestine. Aspirin also can cause you to bleed more easily. The bleeding can be in the stomach or intestines, or happen in the brain, causing a stroke. Also, skin wounds don't stop bleeding as easily.

Valentin Fuster, MD, past president of the AHA, tells WebMD that the new study confirms what the organization found earlier. If any modification needs to be made to the AHA guidelines, he says, it is "be cautious when giving aspirin" if one of the patient's risk factors is high blood pressure, "because it may make things worse." Fuster is director of the cardiovascular institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

However, the study may expand the use of aspirin by one cardiologist. "We give aspirin to everyone with coronary disease, regardless of blood pressure," says Steven L. Almany, MD, FACC, medical director of cardiology at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "I don't usually put people on aspirin unless they're over 55 or have [heart disease]. That won't change," he says. "Now, if someone younger -- under age 50, says they want to take aspirin, I might say yes. Before, I would have said no." Almany was not involved in the study.

Linden says studies have been designed to look at heart disease in women, and further research is planned. Still, she says, "anybody who has evidence of coronary heart disease or stroke should be taking aspirin, unless they have a bleeding problem or their doctor has advised against it.

"Aspirin is a fantastic drug to cut the risk of heart disease," Linden adds. "However, if people do not have evidence of heart disease or a family history of it, this research does not suggest they take aspirin to help them." Because many people have high blood pressure and don't know it, she stresses the importance of being carefully monitored by your physician.

"There are ways to protect yourself against coronary heart disease if you haven't got it," Linden says. "But for many people, particularly those with heart disease, aspirin is not the only answer."

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