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Aspirin and heart disease

Alternate Names

Blood thinners - aspirin; Antiplatelet therapy - aspirin

How Aspirin Helps You

Taking aspirin helps prevent blood clots from forming in your arteries. It also reduces your risk of having a stroke or heart attack. Aspirin may be used to:

  • Prevent heart disease or coronary (heart) artery disease
  • Prevent stroke or mini-strokes (transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs), which are early warning signs of stroke
  • Increase blood flow to your legs
  • Treat atrial fibrillation, a type of abnormal heartbeat
  • Treat a heart attack

Aspirin therapy is often recommended after these procedures:

  • Angioplasty
  • Stent placement
  • Heart bypass surgery

You will usually take aspirin as a pill. Talk to your doctor before taking aspirin every day. Your doctor may change your dose from time to time.

Side Effects

Aspirin can have side effects. They include diarrhea, a skin rash, itching, nausea, or stomach pain. Before you start taking aspirin, tell your doctor if you:

  • Have bleeding problems or stomach ulcers
  • Are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding

Taking Aspirin

Take your aspirin with food and plenty of water to reduce side effects. You may need to stop taking it before you have surgery or dental work. Do NOT stop taking aspirin without talking with your doctor or nurse first.

You may need other drugs for pain, a cold, or the flu that have aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) in them. Ask your doctor what is safe for you to take for these conditions.

If you miss a dose of your aspirin:

  • Take it as soon as possible, unless it is time for your next dose.
  • If it is time for your next dose, take your usual amount.
  • Do NOT take extra pills to make up for a dose you missed.

Store aspirin and all other medicines in a cool, dry place. Keep them where children cannot get to them.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of these side effects:

  • Any signs of unusual bleeding, such as blood in the urine or stools, nosebleeds, unusual bruising, heavy bleeding from cuts, black tarry stools, coughing up blood, unusually heavy menstrual bleeding or unexpected vaginal bleeding, or vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Tightness in your chest or chest pain
  • Swelling in your face or hands
  • Itching, hives, or tingling in your face or hands
  • Very bad stomach pain
  • Skin rash

References

Becker RC, Meade TW, Berger PB, Ezekowitz M, O'Connor CM, Vorchheimer DA, et al. The primary and secondary prevention of coronary artery disease: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (8th Edition). Chest. 2008;133(6 Suppl):776S-814S.

Fraker TD Jr, Fihn SD, Gibbons RJ, Abrams J, Chatterjee K, Daley J et al. 2007 chronic angina focused update of the ACC/AHA 2002 Guidelines for the management of patients with chronic stable angina: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines Writing Group to develop the focused update of the 2002 Guidelines for the management of patients with chronic stable angina. Circulation. 2007;116:2762-2772.

Kushner FG, Hand M, Smith SC Jr, King SB 3rd, Anderson JL, Antman EM, et al. 2009 Focused Updates: ACC/AHA Guidelines for the Management of Patients With ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (updating the 2004 Guideline and 2007 Focused Update) and ACC/AHA/SCAI Guidelines on Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (updating the 2005 Guideline and 2007 Focused Update): a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2009 Dec 1;120(22):2271-306.

Sobel M, Verhaeghe R; American College of Chest Physicians. Antithrombotic therapy for peripheral artery occlusive disease: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (8th Edition). Chest. 2008;133:815S-843S.


Review Date: 9/21/2010
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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