Los Alamitos, CA (February 2011) – Since aspirin was introduced as a treatment to relieve symptoms of rheumatism in the late 1800s, it has advanced from being not only a pain reliever but also a life saver. In 1948 a California doctor who had been prescribing aspirin to 400 of his patients started recommending "an aspirin a day" after he noticed that they had not suffered a heart attack. Forty years later the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed the use of aspirin to reduce the risk of recurrent heart attacks and prevent heart attacks in patients with angina (chest pain).
Daily aspirin use has shown to benefit people with heart or blood vessel disease, and those with poor blood flow to the brain. However, every prescription and over-the-counter medication also has risks which must be outweighed by the advantages gained through ongoing use. People who take aspirin should not take ibuprofen without first consulting their physician. The FDA warns people not to drink alcohol if they take aspirin regularly. Side effects associated with aspirin use include stomach bleeding, kidney failure, bleeding in the brain and some kinds of stroke, as well as nausea, vomiting and heartburn. Consequently, aspirin therapy should not begin before first consulting a physician.
Aspirin works by halting the body’s production of certain natural substances that can lead to fever, blood clots, swelling or pain. When taken on a daily basis, aspirin has shown to lower the risk of heart attack, strokes caused by blood clots and other blood flow problems. Aspirin itself will not treat a heart attack. However, when taken in conjunction with other treatments provided in the emergency department, it has shown to significantly improve the chances of survival. Aspirin should not be taken during a stroke because not all strokes are caused by blood clots. If a stroke is caused by a ruptured blood vessel, taking an aspirin could make the stroke worse.
Daily aspirin may be prescribed after the physician evaluates the patient’s medical history, allergies, potential benefits and risks, and the use of other medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins and herbals. Not everyone is a candidate for aspirin therapy. Medical conditions that may prevent daily aspirin use include pregnancy, asthma, uncontrolled high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, liver and kidney disease, or bleeding disorders.
Because aspirin is not labeled for use to reduce the risk of heart attack or clot-related stroke, the correct dosage must be provided by a health care professional. Nonprescription aspirin usually is taken once a day in dosages ranging from 75 mg to 325 mg. If a dose is missed, it can be taken as soon as possible. The missed dose can be skipped if it is almost time for the next dose. Aspirin should not be taken as a double dose.
For more information about aspirin and heart attacks, talk with your doctor or visit the Web site for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at www.fda.gov/cder.
Los Alamitos Medical Center is proud to be recognized by the following organizations: The Joint Commission Advanced Certification as a Primary Stroke Center, The Joint Commission Advanced Certification in Heart Failure, The Joint Commission Certification of Distinction in the Management of Coronary Artery Disease, American Stroke Association Get With the Guidelines Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award for Stroke, American Heart Association Get With the Guidelines Gold Performance Achievement Award for Heart Failure, and American Heart Association Get With the Guidelines Gold Performance Achievement Award for Coronary Artery Disease