UK HealthCare

Should You Take Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attacks?

Inside Creative House, iStock/Getty Images Plus

The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Vedant Gupta, M.D., a cardiologist at UK HealthCare Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 15, 2021) If you take a daily aspirin to help decrease your chance of a heart attack or stroke, you should check in with your health care provider. A new report indicates the over-the-counter drug may do more harm than good for some patients.

Aspirin is a pain reliever and blood thinner, often used to reduce the chance for blood clots. This has consistently been shown as beneficial for those who have a history of heart disease or have already had a heart attack, stroke or blockages in other blood vessels. However, blood thinners can also increase your risk of bleeding and may not be as helpful for those without heart disease, or those who are not entirely aware of their family history and individual risk factors.

Adults aged 60 or older taking aspirin daily are at an increased risk for bleeding, according to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, and in those without a history of a prior heart attack, stroke or other blockages, this risk of bleeding may outweigh the benefit from taking a daily aspirin. There may be a small benefit of taking aspirin for younger patients (those in their 40s and 50s), especially if their bleeding risk is low, but the supporting evidence is less clear as age increases.

It is essential to talk with your health care provider about taking or stopping a daily aspirin. It is important to know your family history and other medical conditions so that your health care provider can make a proper and educated recommendation specifically for you.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendation change does not apply to patients who are taking (or have been recommended to take) a low-dose aspirin daily after a heart attack or stroke. Others who may be recommended to take daily aspirin include those who:

  • Have high blood pressure.
  • Have high cholesterol.
  • Have diabetes.
  • Have other conditions that might increase their chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.