You may have heard for a long time that taking a baby aspirin a day can help you reduce the risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular events, such as a stroke. However, the Food and Drug Administration has now challenged that line of thinking for the prevention of first heart attacks.
In early May, the FDA denied Bayer HealthCare's petition to advertise its low-dose aspirin as a preventive aid for cardiovascular health. The agency followed up on the decision with a consumer update on its website three days later that said the risks of taking aspirin every day outweighed the potential benefits in those who had never experienced a heart attack or other cardiovascular event. The potential side effects of taking aspirin every day include stomach ulcers and internal bleeding, specifically into the brain or the digestive tract.
The FDA said that taking aspirin every day is still recommended for those who have already experienced such issues.
The FDA's opinion about taking aspirin for prevention of a first heart attack runs counter to what the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association recommend. Both say that a low dose of aspirin taken each day can help lower the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Ultimately, whatever the FDA or these other groups say is purely a guideline. Each person requires unique treatment. If you have reason to believe that you are at risk of cardiovascular problems, perhaps because of a family history of heart disease, it is important that you talk to your doctor, as well as a cardiologist, to get tailored feedback for your case. Your cardiologist may tell you that the benefits of taking the aspirin outweigh the risks and recommend that you take a certain dose. Only your doctor can tell you for certain what may work for you.
Use our Find A Doc feature to find a cardiologist in your area and schedule a consultation.