It is expected that out of the approximate 660,000 Americans who will have a heart attack for the first time this year, 85% will survive. Aspirin is often a component of treatment regimens for those with heart disease. About twenty percent of American adults take aspirin and many of them use it as part of a program to prevent first or subsequent heart attacks. That statistic from the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, along with other studies and patient results, points to the effectiveness of aspirin in heart attack prevention.
However, it is important to remember that any regimen – particularly one that includes the use of a medication – should be started only after your doctor recommends that you do so. There are considerable benefits for heart patients who take aspirin daily but there are also risks that must be considered.
Benefits of an aspirin regimen
The primary advantage aspirin provides those at risk for a heart attack or those who have had heart issues is that it helps prevent the blood clots that often lead to both heart attacks and strokes. The accumulation of cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium and cellular waste material in our blood vessels is called “plaque.” Plaque slows down the flow of blood through arteries which provides opportunities for blood clots to form. If the clots travel through arteries to the heart, the result can be a heart attack. If the clots travel to the brain, a stroke may occur.
Who should begin daily aspirin therapy?
About eighteen percent of people who have suffered one myocardial infarction (another term for heart attack) will have a second one. Most physicians and leading institutions such as the Mayo Clinic believe that if a patient has already had a heart attack, or is at high risk of another, aspirin may help. If a stent has been placed in a coronary artery, coronary bypass surgery has been performed or chest pains occur that are caused by angina, regular aspirin doses may be appropriate. In addition, regular aspirin use may particularly benefit patients who have diabetes or high blood pressure, or who smoke.
The optimal dosage
Recommendations for aspirin therapy can range from very minimal dosages to moderate dosages. A baby aspirin may work for some while a stronger dose or additional medication may be required to be effective in others. Your general health condition and risk factors must be taken into consideration, along with your tolerance to aspirin.
What are the risks of taking aspirin?
While there are proven clinical benefits associated with regular aspirin therapy, risk factors must be a part of the physician’s assessment of each patient. According to the American Heart Association, the most notable risk is that aspirin thins the blood. Other conditions which can disqualify a patient for aspirin treatment include a general intolerance to aspirin, gastrointestinal bleeding or past hemorrhagic stroke, regular alcohol use and/or any dental or medical procedures which are planned or in progress.
Aspirin is a medication
Because aspirin use is extremely common in the over-the-counter treatment of headache and relief of minor pain, it is often viewed as harmless. But the fact that it is purchased over-the-counter without a prescription does not mean it is without danger since it contains definitive active agents like any other medication.
Most studies – including those performed in the past decade at Harvard – indicate that aspirin should be used daily or on a routine basis only after a medical exam since it can lead to serious medical conditions in certain patients.
Part of the plan
As with any prescription or over the counter medication, the use of aspirin should be part of a total health plan. Before beginning a regimen that includes aspirin as part of an overall health program, a thorough medical history to assess your overall physical condition should be taken and your particular medical issues should be considered.
To learn more about regular aspirin therapy and how it might benefit you, log on to vascularhealthclinics.org.