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FDA says don't take a daily aspirin if you didn't already have a heart attack

Remember how many times you heard on the news or from doctors (in general) to take an aspirin a day to prevent a heart attack? Often, over the years, doctors and/or the ads said, "a low-dose aspirin." Now the FDA says not to take that daily aspirin unless you already had a heart attack. You may wish to check out the article, "FDA Says Not To Take A Daily Aspirin If You Haven't Had A Heart Attack."

FDA says don't take a daily aspirin if you didn't already have a heart attack.
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Or you can peruse the latest ScienceWorld Report, "Daily Dose of Aspirin may not be Safe for Everyone: FDA," appearing online May 7, 2014. Or see the May 5, 2014 article appearing on FDA's Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products. The news appears in a variety of publications. The moral of this story is science changes with the times. A lot of money has been made selling daily aspirins to adults, especially the low-dose aspirins. The issue is now, whether or not you need aspirin, actually depends.

In the meantime, the FDA, US Food and Drug Administration's latest press release in its Consumer Updates section, "Can an Aspirin a Day Help Prevent a Heart Attack?" says that depends. Scientific evidence shows that taking an aspirin daily can help prevent a heart attack or stroke in some people, but not in everyone. It also can cause unwanted side effects.

Notice, you won't hear the government advising you to take other blood thinners found in food ingredients or supplements such as cod liver oil, resveratrol, vitamin E (all 8 parts), ginko biloba, aged garlic extract, or any other blood-thinning supplement or food extract. The FDA generally speaks for the majority of the public who don't read nutrition studies or books on which foods have medicinal qualities, but find the word 'aspirin' familiar from childhood or constant advertising as in the old adage attributed to doctors in the past "take two aspirin and call me in the morning." How different is that familiar saying from hearing "take one baby aspirin daily, if your doctors tells you to," heard repeatedly on TV, radio, and in print advertising for at least the past decade.

So whether a aspirin a day helps you ward off a heart attack or stroke depends on whether you already had a stroke or heart attack. And what kind of a stroke, an ischemic stroke from a blood clot or piece of broken-off plaque? Or is your blood so thin already that the stroke you had was caused by bleeding in the brain, a different type of stroke not caused by blood that's too thick? The answer the FDA has is that depends.

According to Robert Temple, M.D., deputy director for clinical science at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one thing is certain: You should use daily aspirin therapy only after first talking to your health care professional, who can weigh the benefits and risks. The only issue consumers may have with that is whether their doctors are trained in alternative foods and supplements that affect the blood in different ways, whether to thin or thicken.

Who Can Benefit?

"Since the 1990s, clinical data have shown that in people who have experienced a heart attack, stroke or who have a disease of the blood vessels in the heart, a daily low dose of aspirin can help prevent a reoccurrence," Temple says, according to the FDA's news release. (A dose ranges from the 80 milligrams (mg) in a low-dose tablet to the 325 mg in a regular strength tablet.) This use is known as "secondary prevention." However, after carefully examining scientific data from major studies, FDA has concluded that the data do not support the use of aspirin as a preventive medication by people who have not had a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular problems, a use that is called "primary prevention." In such people, the benefit has not been established but risks—such as dangerous bleeding into the brain or stomach—are still present.

Caution Needed With Other Blood Thinners

When you have a heart attack, it's because one of the coronary arteries (which provide blood to the heart), has developed a clot that obstructs the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Aspirin works by interfering with your blood's clotting action. Care is needed when using aspirin with other blood thinners, such as warfarin, dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto) and apixiban (Eliquis).

What about people who have not had heart problems or a stroke but who, due to family history or showing other evidence of arterial disease are at increased risk? Is an aspirin a day a safe and effective strategy for them? Again, Temple emphasizes, the clinical data do not show a benefit in such people. He adds, however, that there are a number of ongoing, large-scale clinical studies continuing to investigate the use of aspirin in primary prevention of heart attack or stroke. FDA is monitoring these studies and will continue to examine the evidence as it emerges.

In the Meantime

The bottom line is that in people who have had a heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular problems, daily aspirin therapy is worth considering. And if you're thinking of using aspirin therapy, you should first talk to your health care professional to get an informed opinion, Temple says, according to the FDA's news release.

Finally, how much aspirin you take matters. It's important to your health and safety that the dose you use and how often you take it is right for you. Your health care professional can tell you the dose and frequency that will provide the greatest benefit with the least side effects.

If your health care professional recommends daily aspirin to lower the risk of a heart attack and clot-related stroke, read the labels carefully to make sure you have the right product. Some drugs combine aspirin with other pain relievers or other ingredients, and should not be used for long-term aspirin therapy. If you're older than 65, there's the chance aspirin could cause stomach bleeding.

That's why it's necessary to find out what is the best solution for you and your health condition

For more information, check out articles such as, Before Using Aspirin to Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke, Here is What You Should Know, Use of Aspirin for Primary Prevention of Heart Attack and Stroke, or Aspirin for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke: Know the Facts. If most HMO doctors are telling patients for years to take a daily aspirin, and suddenly the FDA says don't take a daily aspirin unless you already had a heart attack or stroke, you have to know what type of stroke: one caused by bleeding and too-thin blood?

Or is a blood clot caused by having too thick blood or unstable plaque moving around? And with a heart attack, did you already have one? If so, what caused it, hardened arteries, a blood clot, or an emotional experience on whistle-clean arteries? You need to know where you stand before you take any type of medicine.

On the other hand, you'll find because food is uncontrolled when used as medicine, you'll rarely hear about diet, holistic health alternatives, or how to use food or supplements as medicine. Then again, there's more money in medicine than in foods and various extracts, and some of them can lead to too much bleeding in people with naturally thin blood. That's why you need to find out where your health stands.

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