FDA Warns Against Using Aspirin To Prevent Heart Attack Or Stroke

Using aspiring to prevent a heart attack or stroke carries risks

On May 2, 2014, the FDA warned that people should not use aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke unless that person has already had a heart attack or stroke. 

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According to the FDA’s warning, the FDA stated the evidence does not support the general use of aspirin for primary prevention of a heart attack or stroke for people with no history of heart attack or stroke.

How does aspirin help prevent a stroke or heart attack?

Aspirin is a blood thinner. It can help prevent your blood from clotting. Usually, when a person bleeds the platelets in the blood clot together to help stop the bleeding.

Taking aspirin can help interfere with the body's ability to form blood clots.

If a person has heart disease, it can involve the buildup of plaque in the arteries. Sometimes the plaque ruptures. When this happens it can cause bleeding. It can then cause bloods clots to form in your bloodstream.

The blood clots can block the flow of blood to the heart. This can cause a heart attack.

A stroke can occur when a blood clot blocks blood from reaching the brain.

Taking a daily dose of low-dose aspirin can help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of heart attack or certain types of stroke. However, this should only be done on the advice of a doctor as there are serious risks.

What are risks of using aspirin to prevent heart attack or stroke?

The FDA warned that the regular use of aspirin can cause other health risks. These include an increased risk of bleeding in the stomach and brain. This can also include the formation of stomach ulcers.

Alcohol use can make these effects worse. Heavy drinkers are warned not to regularly take aspirin.

There is also some hesitation by doctors to prescribe aspirin for those who have suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. Not every stroke is caused by a blood clot. Other types of strokes can occur when a blood vessel ruptures or bleeds inside the brain. These hemorrhagic strokes are sometimes referred to as "brain-bleed strokes."

Some physicians worry that taking aspirin may increase the risk of brain bleed strokes. Because aspirin helps prevent clotting and thins the blood, the fear is that use of aspirin increases the risk of this type of stroke. That is unclear.

Contact your doctor about using low-dose aspirin

Physicians may still prescribe the daily use of low-dose aspirin for patients who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke. Otherwise, the risks associated with regular aspirin use may do more harm than good.

Sound advice is to contact your doctor if you have any questions about using aspirin. Do not regularly take aspirin without talking to your physician to get his or her direction or approval.

When speaking to a doctor about aspirin use, tell your doctor if you:

  • Are over the age of 70
  • Are allergic to aspirin
  • Are at risk for hemorrhagic stroke or gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Regularly drink alcohol
  • Are undergoing medical or dental procedures
  • Have ever had a heart attack or stroke

A doctor will weigh these risk factors to help decide if you can safely take low-dose aspirin.

It is important to note that the FDA stated that taking aspirin may help prevent another heart attack or stroke in patients who have already had a heart attack or stroke or who have cardiovascular disease. People with a history of heart attack or stroke may still benefit from taking aspirin regularly on the advice of their physicians.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns you should consult with your doctor.

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