Expert QA

Should I take aspirin to prevent a heart attack?

By Nicole Gregory for Live Right Live Well

Research shows that if you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, or you experience angina (a type of chest pain caused by inadequate blood to the heart), aspirin can help prevent these events from recurring. However, a recent Scottish study found that aspirin does not prevent heart attacks, strokes or angina if you’ve never experienced them before.

“Far more important than taking aspirin is to focus on controlling…risk factors,” says William Hiatt, M.D., professor of cardiovascular research at the University of Colorado Denver. This means not smoking, exercising for 30 minutes most days of the week, eating a low-fat diet, keeping your blood pressure in a healthy normal range and LDL cholesterol less than 100. You should also be aware of risk factors that you cannot control, such as having a parent with heart disease or being male, over 65 years old, African American, Mexican American, native Hawaiian or Native American. Finally, keep in mind that aspirin affects blood clotting, making you more likely to bleed. So you shouldn’t put yourself on an aspirin regimen without talking to your doctor first.