Conflicting Advice on Aspirin for Preventing Heart Disease

Photo of aspirin and heart disease LocateADocYou 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.

Further Reading

  • Did you know that heart disease is the number one silent killer in both men and women and the leading cause of death in the United States? That is why the month of February is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease. It is important to know your risk factors, and to make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent heart disease. Risk factors that we cannot change include age, family history, genetics, and ethnicity. The risk factors that can be managed successfully include diet, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, and reducing stress. Prevention is the key to maintaining a healthy heart. can help you find cardiology doctors in your area.

  • If chocolate is the forbidden fruit of your diet, it may be time to reintroduce this tasty treat to your weekly menu. A recent study reported in the American Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that women who eat at least two chocolate bars every week have a 20 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who don’t eat any chocolate at all.

  • If 2009 is your year to clean up an unhealthy diet and embark on new routines towards a healthier lifestyle, an anti-aging diet could be part of the regimen.  Dr. Heidi Regenass, a plastic surgeon from Phoenix, Arizona has recently released "Dr. Heidi's Anti-Aging Cookbook", a set of guidelines for healthier living that can help you look and feel beautiful from inside out.