If your doctor has recommended aspirin, a nonsteroidal and anti-inflammatory drug, to lower your risk for heart attack and stroke, you may be wondering how it works and how to take it safely.
Learn more about how aspirin can help your heart and what lifestyle changes you can make to possibly decrease your risk.
To learn more about whether taking aspirin for heart health is right for you, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
How Does Aspirin Prevent a Heart Attack or Stroke?
Aspirin may help lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke by preventing dangerous blood clots from forming. When you damage a blood vessel, usually by a cut or bruise, your body sends small cell fragments called platelets to the site of the injury. The platelets stick together, or clot, to stop the bleeding allow the injury to heal.
Plaque buildup in your arteries can put you at risk for dangerous blood clots because plaque can rupture. If a blood clot forms at the site of the rupture, it can block blood flow and lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Aspirin can help keep platelets from sticking together, thus lowering your risk for dangerous blood clots.
Who Should Take Aspirin for Heart Attack and Stroke Prevention?
Your doctor may recommend daily aspirin to lower your risk for heart attack and stroke if you have:
- Had a heart attack or stroke in the past, or are at risk for one
- Undergone angioplasty or coronary artery bypass surgery
- Peripheral artery disease, or blocked blood vessels in your legs
- Atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm problem that raises your risk for blood clots
- Coronary artery disease, or blocked blood vessels in your heart
You should only take aspirin for heart health if your doctor recommends it. Your doctor may also suggest taking aspirin with other medicines that can help prevent dangerous blood clots.
If you have a high risk for bleeding or are allergic to aspirin, you shouldn’t take it. Because aspirin affects your blood’s ability to clot, you might bleed easier. It’s important to alert your doctor, dentist, and other health care providers that you’re taking aspirin before undergoing any medical procedures.
Will I Need to Make Other Lifestyle Changes?
In addition to taking aspirin to lower your risk for heart attack and stroke, your doctor might recommend the following lifestyle changes:
- Eat heart-healthy foods, like salmon, berries, and leafy greens
- Quit or avoid smoking
- Get regular physical activity
- Control your blood pressure
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Take your medicines as prescribed