Avoiding a First Heart Attack With Aspirin

image for aspririn article You have probably heard that aspirin prevents heart attacks in people with coronary artery disease. It also works in healthy people without pre-existing cardiovascular problems. Research has shown that aspirin is effective in preventing first heart attacks in healthy people who have risk factors for the disease. It does this by reducing formation of blood clots that can trigger heart attacks. However, not everyone should be taking aspiring therapy. It should only be done under the guidance of your doctor.

United States Preventive Services Task Force

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent panel of medical experts, recommends aspirin therapy in the following groups:

  • Men aged 45-79 to reduce the risk of heart attacks
  • Women aged 55-79 to reduce the risk of stroke

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aspirin therapy for people who are considered to be at high risk of having a heart attack. A person is high risk if they have conditions such as established heart disease, peripheral artery disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, chronic renal disease, or diabetes. People may also be at high risk they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoke. Your doctor will assess your risk. These factors are combined to assess your chance of a cardiovascular event. You may be requested to take aspirin if your combined risk is more than 10% within 10 years.

Your Risk Factors

Heart disease is more common in people age 65 years or older, especially men. The risk is higher in people of African American, Mexican American, Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Asian American descent.

According to the AHA, major risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity (and overweight)
  • Diabetes

Consulting Your Doctor

If you think aspirin therapy may be right for you, be sure to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor. The discussion should take into account your calculated risk for heart disease, the known protective effects of aspirin, potential side effects (such as gastrointestinal bleeding), factors that increase your risk of side effects, and your personal preferences about medical care.


American Heart Association

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute


Health Canada

Heart & Stroke Foundation


Aspirin and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated May 9, 2016. Accessed June 15, 2016.

Aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated February 1, 2016. Accessed June 15, 2016.

Boltri JM, Akerson MR, Vogel RL. Aspirin prophylaxis in patients at low risk for cardiovascular disease: a systematic review of all-cause mortality. J Fam Pract. 2002;51(8):700-704.

Pearson TA, Blair SN, Daniels SR, et al. AHA guidelines for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and stroke: 2002 update. Circulation. 2002;106:388-391.

US Preventive Services Task Force. Aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med . 2009;150(6):396-404.

Understand your risk of heart attack. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated May 31, 2016. Accessed June 15, 2016.

Last reviewed June 2016 by Michael Woods, MD  Last Updated: 6/15/2016