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Aspirin and Your Heart Health

By DuPage Medical Group Cardiology

As you know, your heart health is very important. Eating right, exercising, and managing stress are all key factors in keeping your heart as healthy as possible. But, if you’ve suffered a heart attack or stroke, or are at high risk for one occurring, your doctor may start you on aspirin therapy. What exactly does that do for you and your heart? Let’s take a look.

Why am I taking aspirin?

Most likely, your doctor prescribed an aspirin therapy regimen to help prevent a heart attack or stroke from happening. Heart attack and stroke are caused by the buildup of plaque (fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium etc.) that can cause blood clots to form in a large to medium-sized artery. These blood clots block blood flow, initiating the heart attack or stroke.

How does aspirin work?

Aspirin works against your blood’s clotting ability. When plaque builds up in your arteries, it can become unstable and promote clotting in the artery near the plaque. Clotting can cause clinical events like a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin “thins” your blood preventing clots from happening in your blood vessels.

What are the side effects of aspirin?

There are possible adverse effects of daily aspirin therapy. These include:

  • Bleeding caused by a burst blood vessel: Aspirin thins your blood, reducing its ability to clot. Aspirin can prevent a clot-related stroke, but it may increase your risk of a bleeding event, including a bleeding stroke.
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding: using aspirin daily can increase your risk of developing a stomach ulcer. Also, if you have any other type of bleeding in your gastrointestinal tract, daily aspirin will cause it to bleed more.
  • Allergic reaction: make sure that you are not allergic to aspirin, as taking any amount of aspirin if you are allergic can trigger a serious reaction.

If you need surgical procedures or dental work, it’s very important to notify your surgeon or dentist. Otherwise, you could have excessive bleeding during surgery. Be sure to ask your doctor if it’s okay to drink alcohol in moderation (1 drink a day for women and men over 65, or 2 drinks a day for men younger than 65). Never stop taking your recommended amount of aspirin without talking to your doctor first.

Before you start aspirin therapy, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of aspirin. Together, you and your doctor can determine the best method to help prevent a future heart attack or stroke. 


Topics and Subtopics: Arteries & Veins & Heart Health

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