A pile of low-dose aspirin.

Low-dose aspirin: What’s the deal?

You may have noticed – or heard about – people who treat aspirin almost like a daily vitamin, taking it not for aches or fever but instead to lower their risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Things to consider about low-dose aspirin

Aspirin has many uses and can impact the body in several ways. How does it actually work and can everyone take it? Ovia Health as got you covered in that department.

How does low-dose aspirin help prevent heart attacks in adults?

Aspirin is a blood thinner; it stops blood platelets from sticking to each other. It’s this ‘sticking together’ that allows clots to form – clots which can block arteries, prevent blood from getting to the heart muscle, and lead to strokes or heart attacks.

Low-dose aspirin is a low-enough dose for adults so that it protects your heart, but doesn’t have serious negative effects on your body. Children shouldn’t take aspirin, which has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, but for adults, it can potentially help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Should healthy people take aspirin to prevent heart attacks or strokes?

There’s no universal rule on which adults can and can’t use low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attacks or strokes. But as is the case with all other medicines, not everyone will benefit from taking low-dose aspirin to prevent against heart attacks. In fact, there’s a wide body of evidence out there that supports the theory that if you’re healthy, of a certain age, and don’t have any risk factors for heart disease, you might not actually benefit from taking aspirin every day.

There is also the question of whether or not baby aspirin helps women and men equally. A 2014 study published in the journal Heart reported that taking a low dose of aspirin can actually be more dangerous than helpful for women without risk factors of heart disease.

Who definitely shouldn’t take aspirin for heart disease prevention?

According to the American Heart Association, people who shouldn’t take aspirin include:

  • People with an aspirin allergy or intolerance
  • People who are at risk for gastrointestinal bleeding or hemorrhagic stroke, or who have a bleeding or clotting disorder
  • People who drink alcohol on a regular basis, because there is a risk of stomach bleeding with alcohol use
  • People who are undergoing certain medical and dental procedures

What’s the bottom line on taking low-dose aspirin for heart attack or stroke prevention?

The bottom line is to discuss the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider. It’s always good to think about disease prevention, and low-dose aspirin has been shown to be immensely helpful for certain people in lowering their risks of some serious health conditions. But because aspirin can have serious health consequences for certain populations, you’ll want to get your healthcare provider’s input and approval before you start any kind of aspirin regimen.

A note on taking low-dose aspirin during pregnancy to prevent preeclampsia

What if you’re looking ahead and thinking about pregnancy? Low-dose aspirin also has a rather important use for certain pregnant individuals.

Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can occur during pregnancy or postpartum – typically in the late second and third trimesters or up to six weeks postpartum – and it can affect both a pregnant individual and their unborn baby. Symptoms can include swelling, headaches, vision changes, or sudden weight gain, and the condition is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Getting prompt medical attention for preeclampsia is very important, as this condition can cause extremely serious health issues for a pregnant individual and their baby.

Where does low-dose aspirin come in? Individuals who have a history of preeclampsia and preterm delivery or who might be at risk of preeclampsia can take a low-dose of aspirin during pregnancy to prevent or delay preeclampsia. This type of low-dose aspirin use in pregnancy is considered to be very safe – it’s associated with a low likelihood of serious complications (for the pregnant individual or their baby) related to it’s use and is a small step that can make a major difference.

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