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November 2019

Should You Take a Daily Aspirin to Protect Your Heart?

For years, people were told that an aspirin a day helped keep the cardiologist away. But more recent studies have called that advice into question. So in spring 2019, the American Heart Association (AHA) changed its recommendations on taking a daily aspirin.

Aspirin bottle on its side, with aspirin tablets forming a valentine heart shape

What do these changes mean for you? Here’s what you need to know.

More harm than good?

Aspirin thins the blood. This helps reduce clotting, and clots play a big role in heart attacks and many strokes. But it also increases the risk of internal bleeding.

The latest research shows that the risks of daily aspirin may outweigh the benefits for many older adults without heart disease. One study included more than 19,000 healthy people, most age 70 and older. They took either a low dose of aspirin or a sugar pill every day for about 5 years.

In these healthy older adults, the researchers found that a daily dose of aspirin had:

  • No apparent benefit. The risk of developing a first heart attack or stroke was similar whether people took aspirin or not.

  • The potential for causing harm.The risk of bleeding, particularly in the stomach, intestines, or brain, was increased in the aspirin group.

Updated aspirin guidelines

The risks and benefits of aspirin vary from person to person. In general:

  • If you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke.Your healthcare provider may recommend taking a low dose of aspirin every day to help prevent having another one. He or she may also advise taking daily aspirin if you’ve had bypass surgery or a stent procedure.

  • If you don’t have a history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. According to the new guidelines, daily aspirin to prevent heart disease is not advised for people older than age 70. It might be an option for certain adults age 40 to 70 who are at high risk for heart disease.

One piece of advice is the same for everyone: Talk with your provider about whether taking a daily aspirin to protect your heart is right for you.

Online Medical Reviewer: McDonough, Brian, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
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