Professional Opinion

Professional Opinion: Aspirin regimen -- just for heart attack victims or beneficial for others?

This week, Dr. Aaron Ford, a cardiologist on the medical staff at Coastal Carolina Hospital who also practices with Hilton Head Heart, discusses the benefits of taking aspirin and whether an aspirin regimen can benefit those who haven't had a heart attack or stroke.

Question: I've heard being on an aspirin regimen is beneficial for stroke and heart patients. But what about someone who has never had these issues? Also, what about someone who has had a history of cardiovascular disease in their family but has not suffered a stroke or heart attack yet?

Answer: That is a great question.

Aspirin use in individuals who have never had a heart issue such as a heart attack, bypass, stent placement, or a stroke is not necessarily always clear.

Primary prevention, which means using aspirin to try to reduce your risk before a heart attack or stroke is generally associated with a benefit if your risk of a heart attack or stroke exceeds 10 percent in the next 10 years.

There are many calculators available that can help determine your risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years.

Most of them use variables such as your age, sex, smoking status, cholesterol, blood pressure values, immediate family history of heart disease and diabetes to calculate risk.

If you fall into the category of 10 percent risk in the next 10 years then the American Heart Association guidelines recommend aspirin at a dose of 75mg to 160mg once daily if used for primary prevention.

Most physicians will recommend a dose of 81mg once a day, otherwise known as a "baby" aspirin.

As with all medications, ask your doctor if aspirin is right for you.

Aspirin is generally a safe drug, but like every medication there are side effects.

The most common ones are abdominal pain from gastric irritation, and, in some severe cases, gastrointestinal bleeding can occur.

The risk of gastrointestinal irritation can be reduced by taking the aspirin with food or using an enteric coated aspirin.

Allergic reactions to aspirin can also occur in one to two percent of patients.

For more information about aspirin or cardiovascular disease and risk factors, check out the American Heart Association's website. It also has a cardiovascular risk calculator.

Put your information in and see where you stand and ask your physician if aspirin is right for you.

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