You can walk into any
pharmacy, grocery or convenience store and buy aspirin without
a prescription. The Drug Facts label on medication products,
will help you choose aspirin for relieving headache, pain, swelling,
or fever. The Drug Facts label also gives directions that
will help you use the aspirin so that it is safe and effective.
But what about using
aspirin for a different use, time period, or in a manner that
is not listed on the label? For example, using aspirin to lower
the risk of heart attack and clot-related strokes. In these cases,
the labeling information is not there to help you with how to
choose and how to use the medicine safely. Since you don't
have the labeling directions to help you, you need the medical
knowledge of your doctor, nurse practitioner or other health professional.
You can increase the
chance of getting the good effects and decrease the chance of
getting the bad effects of any medicine by choosing and using
it wisely. When it comes to using aspirin to lower the risk of
heart attack and stroke, choosing and using wisely means:
Know the facts and work with your health professional.
FACT: Daily use
of aspirin is not right for everyone.
Aspirin has been
shown to be helpful when used daily to lower the risk of heart
attack, clot-related strokes and other blood flow problems. Many
medical professionals prescribe aspirin for these uses. There
may be a benefit to daily aspirin use for you if you have some
kind of heart or blood vessel disease, or if you have evidence
of poor blood flow to the brain. However, the risks of long-term
aspirin use may be greater than the benefits if there are no signs
of, or risk factors for heart or blood vessel disease.
and over-the-counter medicine has benefits and risks — even
such a common and familiar medicine as aspirin. Aspirin use can
result in serious side effects, such as stomach bleeding, bleeding
in the brain, kidney failure, and some kinds of strokes. No medicine
is completely safe. By carefully reviewing many different factors,
your health professional can help you make the best choice for
When you don't have the labeling directions to guide you, you need
the medical knowledge of your doctor, nurse practitioner, or other
FACT: Daily aspirin
can be safest when prescribed by a medical health professional
if daily aspirin use is right for you, your health professional
will need to consider:
- Your medical
history and the history of your family members
- Your use of other
medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter
- Your use of other
products, such as dietary supplements, including vitamins and
- Your allergies
or sensitivities, and anything that affects your ability to
use the medicine
- What you have
to gain, or the benefits, from the use of the medicine
- Other options
and their risks and benefits
- What side effects
you may experience
- What dose, and
what directions for use are best for you
- How to know when
the medicine is working or not working for this use
sure to tell your health professional all the medicines (prescription
and over-the-counter) and dietary supplements, including vitamins
and herbals, that you use —even if only occasionally.
FACT: Aspirin is
If you are at risk
for heart attack or stroke your doctor may prescribe aspirin to
increase blood flow to the heart and brain. But any drug —
including aspirin — can have harmful side effects, especially
when mixed with other products. In fact, the chance of side effects
increases with each new product you use.
New products includes
prescription and other over-the-counter medicines, dietary supplement,
(including vitamins and herbals), and sometimes foods and beverages.
For instance, people who already use a prescribed medication to
thin the blood should not use aspirin unless recommended by a
health professional. There are also dietary supplements known
to thin the blood. Using aspirin with alcohol or with another
product that also contains aspirin, such as a cough-sinus drug,
can increase the chance of side effects.
Your health professional
will consider your current state of health. Some medical conditions,
such as pregnancy, uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding
disorders, asthma, peptic (stomach) ulcers, liver and kidney disease,
could make aspirin a bad choice for you.
sure that all your health professionals are aware that you are
using aspirin to reduce your risk of heart attack and clot-related
FACT: Once your
doctor decides that daily use of aspirin is for you, safe use
depends on following your doctor's directions.
There are no directions
on the label for using aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attack
or clot-related stroke. You may rely on your health professional
to provide the correct information on dose and directions for
use. Using aspirin correctly gives you the best chance of getting
the greatest benefits with the fewest unwanted side effects. Discuss
with your health professional the different forms of aspirin products
that might be best suited for you.
Aspirin has been
shown to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, but not all
over-the-counter pain and fever reducers do that. Even though
the directions on the aspirin label do not apply to this use of
aspirin, you still need to read the label to confirm that the
product you buy and use contains aspirin at the correct dose.
Check the Drug Facts label for "active ingredients: aspirin"
or "acetylsalicylic acid" at the dose that your health professional
Remember, if you
are using aspirin everyday for weeks, months or years to prevent
a heart attack, stroke, or for any use not listed on the label
—without the guidance from your health professional —you
could be doing your body more harm than good.