Aspirin: Common Questions
It's important to talk with your health care team about your questions and concerns about aspirin therapy. Here are answers to some common questions.
Question: I’ve been taking a low-dose aspirin for years to help keep a heart attack or stroke from happening. I’m nervous to stop taking it.
Answer: As always, it’s best to talk with your health care professional before you stop taking any medication, including aspirin. Your health care professional should review your health history and assess your chance of developing heart disease to help you decide whether to still take aspirin, especially considering the latest research.
If you’re a healthy person with a low chance of developing heart disease, it’s not clear that an aspirin a day will help reduce events like a heart attack or stroke. Over time a daily aspirin can lead to stomach upset and, in some cases, dangerous gastrointestinal bleeding.
The best thing you can do for your heart health is to:
- Adopt heart-healthy habits
- Keep tabs on your blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure
Question: I’ve read that when you stop aspirin therapy it can make a heart attack more likely. Is this true?
Answer: For people without existing heart disease, this isn’t a concern. However, for people who take regular aspirin as part of their treatment after a heart attack or procedure, stopping aspirin therapy may cause a problem. Be sure to talk to your health care professional before stopping or changing any medicine.
Is it better to take a low-dose aspirin (81 mg) or regular strength? What about coated or not?
Low-dose aspirin is preferred. Taking an “enteric coated” aspirin, which means one made to dissolve in the small intestine instead of the stomach, is a reasonable choice. However, most studies show no significant difference in side effects between coated and regular low-dose aspirin.
If I have coronary artery disease, should I stop taking an aspirin?
Never stop taking any medication, including aspirin, without talking with your health care professional first. The latest recommendations still support using aspirin along with other medications to prevent issues after a heart attack, stroke or having a stent placed.
How should I take aspirin?
If you get the OK to keep taking or to start taking aspirin, keep a few things in mind:
- Ask about the best dose, or amount, you should take. There is little reason to take more than 100 mg of aspirin a day, according to the new recommendations.
- Don’t take it on an empty stomach. Taking aspirin with food will help avoid upsetting your stomach.
- Avoid taking it with alcohol. This combination can increase your chance of bleeding.
- Ask about other medicine that might interfere with the aspirin and lead to more bleeding. Talk to your health care professional about other medications and supplements you take.
- You may need to stop taking aspirin before dental or other procedures. Ask your health care professional first.
For more information on how to prevent heart disease, go to CardioSmart.org/Prevention.
Published: March 2019
Medical Reviewers: Roger Blumenthal, MD, FACC
CardioSmart Editor-in-Chief: Martha Gulati, MD, FACC