For decades, millions of Americans have been advised to take low dose aspirin daily to prevent heart attacks and strokes. But new research is raising questions about this common practice.
It’s not that aspirin doesn’t work to keep the heart healthy. It does. It’s just that the dose your doctor wants you to take may need to change in order to be right for you. Doctors recommend aspirin because it helps to prevent clots from forming that can block blood flow to the heart or brain, causing heart attacks and strokes.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that people at high risk of a heart attack take a daily low-dose aspirin if their doctors recommend it. People who have had a heart attack are often advised to take it to prevent them from having another heart attack.
The new study found that a person’s weight affects whether aspirin helps to prevent a heart attack or not. Low-dose aspirin (75 to 100 mg.) works best for people who weigh between 110 and about 153 pounds. It doesn’t prevent heart attacks in people who weigh more than about 154 pounds. And when heavier people on low-dose aspirin have a heart attack or stroke, they’re more likely to die from the heart problem than people on aspirin who weigh less.
Researchers also showed that taking a higher dose of aspirin (325 mg. and up) reduced heart attacks and strokes in people who weighed more than 154 pounds. However, higher doses can be harmful. The higher the dose, the greater the risk of bleeding. In the study, higher doses also increased the risk of sudden death, particularly in people who weigh 153 pounds or less.
What does it all mean? Some people may be taking too much aspirin and others too little. And your weight may be an important new factor in how much aspirin you take.
Doctors will probably want to see more research on this. But for now, if he or she has advised you to take aspirin, it’s time for a new discussion about the risks and benefits of aspirin and how much you should be taking.
If you are concerned about your aspirin dose, ask your doctor about the AspirinWorks® Test, a simple urine test that can help you and your doctor know if your aspirin is working to help you avoid heart attacks and strokes.
If you are not taking aspirin, but wonder if it is right for you, the AHA suggests asking your doctor these questions about it:
- What is my risk for having a heart attack or stroke?
- Would it be good for me to take aspirin to help prevent a heart attack or stroke?
- What are the side effects of aspirin?
- How long should I take aspirin?
- Will aspirin work well with my other medications?
Since aspirin has health risks, don’t start taking it before talking to your doctor about whether it is right for you and what dose would be best.
Aspirin is a powerful tool for preventing heart attacks and strokes. But as this new research shows, there’s a lot to consider to be sure that it’s working best for you.