image for aspririn article You have probably heard that aspirin prevents heart attacks in people with heart disease. But did you know that it also works in healthy people without pre-existing cardiovascular problems? Research has shown that aspirin is effective in preventing first heart attacks in healthy people who have risk factors for the disease. It does this by staving off blood clots that can trigger heart attacks. But does this mean everyone should be taking aspirin therapy? According to the studies, the answer to that question is no, unless you have risk factors for the disease.

US Preventive Services Task Force

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of medical experts, recommends aspirin therapy in the following groups:

  • Men aged 45-79 to reduce the risk of heart attacks
  • Women aged 55-79 to reduce the risk of stroke
American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aspirin therapy for people who are considered to be at "high risk" of having a heart attack. A person is high risk if they have conditions such as established heart disease, peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, chronic renal disease, or diabetes. People may also be at high risk they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and people who smoke.

Your Risk Factors

According to the AHA, major risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Age: 65 or older
  • Gender: male
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Ethnicity: African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians, and some Asian Americans
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity and overweight
  • Diabetes
Consulting Your Doctor

If you think aspirin therapy may be right for you, be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. The discussion should take into account your calculated risk for heart disease, the known protective effects of aspirin, potential side effects (such as gastrointestinal bleeding), factors that increase your risk of side effects, and your personal preferences about medical care.