Daily aspirin use and heart health

May 6, 2018

Why does my doctor want me to start taking an aspirin every day? Aspirin can be beneficial for many health conditions including those persons at increased risk of having a heart attack, those who have had a heart attack, or have had a stroke.

You may be at increased risk for heart disease, including a heart attack, if you have high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes, high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, or if you smoke or are over the age of 50.

A daily aspirin helps by inhibiting the blood’s ability to clot. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is limited or completely stopped.

This can happen when you get deposits of fat, cholesterol, and other substances built up in the blood vessels of the heart; this is called plaque. Medically, the buildup of plaque is called arteriosclerosis.

Arteriosclerosis causes a narrowing of blood vessels. Over time, this plaque can become unstable and rupture. When a rupture occurs, it activates the clotting process which can lead to blockage in the vessel causing a heart attack.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends daily aspirin therapy if you are 50 to 69 years of age, if you are not at an increased risk for bleeding, and if you have an increased risk of heart attack or stroke 10 percent or greater over the next 10 years. Your healthcare provider can help you calculate this risk.

Daily aspirin usage is not recommended for everyone, and you should not start a daily regimen without first speaking with your healthcare provider. Because aspirin interferes with your blood’s ability to clot, daily usage could cause an increased risk for bleeding.

Your healthcare provider will help you weigh the risks and benefits of starting aspirin therapy. Make sure you let him or her know before starting aspirin therapy, if you have an allergy to aspirin, a bleeding or clotting disorder, or bleeding stomach ulcers.

Amy Pabawena is an Idaho State University graduate and a nurse practitioner for Health West. She practices in the Lava Hot Springs, Downey and Preston locations.