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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 also recommended after these procedures:

  • Angioplasty
  • Stent placement
  • Heart bypass surgery

You will usually take aspirin as a pill. 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
Care Points
Angina - discharge
Heart attack - discharge
Angioplasty and stent - heart - discharge
Being active when you have heart disease
Cardiac catheterization - discharge
Clopidogrel (Plavix)
Controlling your high blood pressure
Heart bypass surgery - discharge
Heart bypass surgery - minimally invasive - discharge
Heart failure - fluids and diuretics
Heart failure - home monitoring
Heart failure - discharge
Stroke - discharge
ACE inhibitors
Angina - when you have chest pain
Being active after your heart attack
Butter, margarine, and cooking oils
Cholesterol and lifestyle
Dietary fats explained
Fast food tips
Heart disease - risk factors
How to read food labels
The Mediterranean diet
Angina - what to ask your doctor
Heart failure - what to ask your doctor
Heart attack - what to ask your doctor
Angioplasty and stent placement - peripheral arteries - discharge
Angioplasty and stent placement - carotid artery - discharge
Atrial fibrillation - discharge
Carotid artery surgery - discharge
Peripheral artery bypass - leg - discharge
Heart valve surgery - discharge

Tran H, Anand SS. Oral antiplatelet therapy in cerebrovascular disease, coronary artery disease, and peripheral arterial disease. JAMA. 2004 Oct 20;292:1867-74.

Related Taxonomy

Review Date: 12/13/2008
Reviewed By: Larry A. Weinrauch MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cardiovascular Disease and Clinical Outcomes Research, Watertown, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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