Clearing up the confusion about aspirin and heart health
Who should be taking it, and who may not need to
If you’re over 50 and concerned about your heart health, you may wonder if you should be taking small daily doses of aspirin as a form of heart attack or stroke prevention. You may have even had a doctor recommend small doses of around 80 mg a day, often referred to as a “baby aspirin” dosage.
Why take daily aspirin
Aspirin can keep platelet blood cells from sticking and forming clots. This is why aspirin is sometimes prescribed to help prevent heart attacks or strokes that could result from clots in the bloodstream.¹
However, there have always been concerns about taking too much aspirin because it can also get in the way of substances that protect the stomach lining. This can sometimes lead to stomach problems or bleeding, depending on the dosage and an individual’s stomach sensitivity.²
Recent shift in guidelines
In the past couple of years, new studies have changed the guidelines and recommendations for taking daily aspirin for preventive heart health. In March 2019, the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology issued the following revision of their guidelines, noting that daily preventive aspirin should be avoided by:
• People over 70 who don’t have heart disease and haven’t had a stroke
• People under 70 who have an increased risk of bleeding (for example, from peptic ulcers)
These changes to the guidelines for doctors have come about because of new research. It suggests that if you haven’t had a heart issue or stroke and aren’t at high risk for heart problems, taking daily aspirin could cause more problems (like stomach issues) than it prevents.³
So who should be taking preventive aspirin and when?
According to doctors and researchers, only patients with a history of heart disease or stroke (or who are at high risk) should take aspirin daily to prevent a heart attack.⁴
If you’re confused about whether daily aspirin is right for you, remember the most important rule with all medical issues:
Talk to your doctor first.
Your doctor will look at your history or risk of heart attack or stroke and determine if you’d benefit from aspirin therapy. Don’t just prescribe daily aspirin to yourself.
Still confused? Remember these points:
• First, talk to your doctor about preventive aspirin therapy. Don’t start taking aspirin daily on your own.
• If you have not had a heart attack or stroke and are not considered at risk for them by your doctor, you probably don’t need to be taking daily aspirin.
• If you are over 70 and not at risk, you should avoid taking daily aspirin.
• If you have had a heart attack or stroke and your doctor has prescribed daily aspirin, you should continue taking it.
• If you have been taking daily aspirin for years, do not suddenly stop taking it without talking to your doctor.
• Did we mention that you should talk to your doctor first about all of this? That is always worth repeating and remembering.
If you need to find a doctor, use Humana’s doctor finder for an in-network doctor near you.
This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.
- “Daily Aspirin Therapy: Understand the Benefits and Risks,” Mayo Clinic, last accessed January 27, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/daily-aspirin-therapy/art-20046797.
- “Study: Millions Should Stop Using Aspirin for Heart Health,” STAT/Associated Press, last accessed January 27, 2020, https://www.statnews.com/2019/07/22/study-millions-should-stop-using-aspirin-for-heart-health/.
- “Is Taking Aspirin Good for Your Heart?,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, last accessed January 27, 2020, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/is-taking-aspirin-good-for-your-heart.
- “Aspirin and Heart Disease: Should You Take Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attack?,” American Heart Association, last accessed January 27, 2020, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/treatment-of-a-heart-attack/aspirin-and-heart-disease.