Preventive Cardiology: Aspirin
by Skye Schulte, MS, MPH and Rebecca J. Stahl, MA
Commonly Used Brand Name and Generic Aspirins
Generic name: Acetylsalicylic acid
General category: Blood thinner, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), salicylate
Aspirin is used to treat and prevent a range of conditions. This medication may be taken for:
There is promising evidence to support that taking an aspirin every day is associated with a reduced risk of dying from cancer after it has been diagnosed.
The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has the following recommendations for a daily low dose of aspirin for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer:
The American Heart Association recommends aspirin for certain people who are at high risk of heart attacks and for people who have experienced a heart attack, stroke, or transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke) if not contraindicated.
Take only the amount of aspirin instructed by your doctor. If you are taking aspirin regularly and you need a medication to relieve pain, a fever, or arthritis, your doctor may not want you to take extra aspirin. It is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor, so that you will know ahead of time what medication to take.
Do not stop taking this medication for any reason without first checking with the doctor who directed you to take it.
Mechanism for How It Works
Aspirin can interact with many types of medications. Some examples include:
Be sure to talk to your doctor about the specific medications that you are taking.
There are many types of herbs and supplements that can interact with aspirin. Examples include:
To avoid any interactions, it is important that you talk to your doctor about any herbs are supplements that you are taking before you begin aspirin therapy.
Other Potential Concerns
If you have one of the following conditions, it may not be appropriate for you to take aspirin due to the increased risk of complications:
Taking aspirin with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may increase the risk of bleeding
Low-dose aspirin increases risk for gastrointestinal bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke. Do not use without medical advice if you are at increased risk for these diseases.
What to Watch For
Examples of common side effects include:
Serious side effects to watch for include:
American Heart Association
US Food and Drug Administration
Heart & Stroke Foundation
Aspirin use to prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer: Preventive medication. US Preventive Services Task Force website. Available at: https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/UpdateSummaryFinal/aspirin-to-prevent-cardiovascular-disease-and-cancer?ds=1&s=aspirin. Updated April 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Antiplatelet agents for secondary prevention of stroke. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 29, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Aspirin. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T233300/Aspirin. Updated September 27, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Aspirin and heart disease. American Heart Association website. Available at:
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September 19, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Aspirin for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated August 13, 2016. Accessed October 24, 2016.
Holmes MD, Chen WY. Hiding in plan view: The potential for commonly used drugs to reduce breast cancer mortality. Breast Cancer Res. 2012;14(2):216.
McCowan C, Munro AJ, Donnan PT, Steele RJ. Use of aspirin post-diagnosis in a cohort of patients with colorectal cancer and its association with all-cause and colorectal cancer specific mortality. Eur J Cancer. 2012;49(5):1049-1057.
Labos C, Dasgupta K, Nedjar H, et al. Risk of bleeding associated with combined use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and antiplatelet therapy following acute myocardial infarction. CMAJ. 2011 Nov 8; 183(16): 1835–1843.
Reimers MS, Bastiaannet E, van Herk-Sukel MP, et al. Aspirin use after diagnosis improves survival in older adults with colon cancer: a retrospective cohort study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012;60(12):2232-2236.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 10/24/2016
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