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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 lowers your risk of a stroke or heart attack .

Aspirin may be used to prevent heart or artery disease. It can also help prevent strokes.

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Aspirin helps get more blood flowing to your legs. It can treat a heart attack and prevent blood clots when you have an abnormal heartbeat. You probably will take aspirin after you have treatment for clogged arteries.

Developmental process of atherosclerosis

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: diarrhea, a skin rash, itching, nausea, or stomach pain. Before you start taking aspirin, tell your doctor if you have bleeding problems. Tell your doctor if have stomach ulcers. Also tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Taking Aspirin

Take your aspirin with food and water. This can reduce side effects. You may need to stop taking this medicine before surgery or dental work. Always talk to your doctor before you stop taking this medicine. If you had a heart attack or a stent placed, be sure to ask your heart doctor if it is ok to stop taking aspirin.

You may need medicine for other health problems. Ask your doctor if this is safe.

If you miss a dose of your aspirin, take it as soon as possible. If it is time for your next dose, take your usual amount. Do NOT take extra pills.

Store your medicines in a cool, dry place. Keep them away from children.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you have side effects.

Side effects can be any signs of unusual bleeding:

  • 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
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds

Other side effects can be dizziness or difficulty swallowing.

Call your doctor if you have wheezing, breathing difficulty, or tightness or pain in your chest.

Side effects include swelling in your face or hands. Call your doctor if you have itching, hives, or tingling in your face or hands, very bad stomach pain, or a skin rash.

References

Gaziano M, Ridker PM, Libby P. Primary and secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald'sHeart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Saunders; 2011:chap 49.

Vandvik PO, Lincoff AM, Gore JM, Gutterman DD, Sonnenberg FA, Alonso-Coello P, et al. Primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: AmericanCollege of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012 Feb;141(2 Suppl):e637S-68S. 

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.

Lansberg MG, O'Donnell MJ, Khatri P, Lang ES, Nguyen-Huynh MN, SchwartzNE, et al. Antithrombotic and thrombolytic therapy for ischemic stroke: Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012 Feb;141(2 Suppl):e601S-36S.   

Updated: 8/28/2012

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. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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