Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke

Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke

Overview

Aspirin prevents blood clots from forming in the arteries. Doctors sometimes recommend daily aspirin for people at high risk of heart attack or stroke.

But taking aspirin isn't right for everyone, because it can cause serious bleeding. You and your doctor can decide if aspirin is a good choice for you.

Who should take aspirin

For people who have had a heart attack: Aspirin can help prevent a second heart attack. Your doctor has probably already prescribed aspirin for you.

For people who have had a stroke: Aspirin can help prevent a second stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is often a warning sign of a stroke.

For people who have never had a heart attack or stroke: Talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day. Aspirin lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke. But aspirin can also cause serious bleeding. You and your doctor can decide if aspirin is a good choice for you based on your risk of a heart attack and stroke and your risk of serious bleeding.

Aspirin may also be used by people who:

  • Had bypass surgery or angioplasty.
  • Have peripheral arterial disease.

Who should not take aspirin

Experts recommend that most people who have never had a heart attack or stroke should not take aspirin. That's because for people who aren't at high risk of heart problems, the chance of bleeding from taking aspirin tends to outweigh the benefits.

Also, people who have certain health problems shouldn't take aspirin. These include people who:

  • Have a stomach ulcer.
  • Have recently had a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain.
  • Have other health problems that increase their risk of bleeding.
  • Are allergic to aspirin.
  • Have asthma that is made worse by aspirin.

How do you take aspirin safely?

  • Take aspirin with food.

    If aspirin upsets your stomach, you can try taking it with food. But if that doesn't help, talk with your doctor. Aspirin can irritate the stomach lining and sometimes cause serious problems.

  • Talk to a doctor before a surgery or procedure

    Before you have a surgery or procedure that may cause bleeding, tell your doctor or dentist that you take aspirin. Aspirin may cause you to bleed more than usual. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking aspirin before your surgery or procedure. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.

  • Do not suddenly stop taking aspirin.

    Do not suddenly stop taking aspirin without talking to your doctor first. Talking to your cardiologist first is especially important if you have had a stent placed in a coronary artery.

  • Seek help for signs of serious bleeding.

    Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if you have any abnormal bleeding, such as:

    • A nosebleed that you can't easily stop.
    • Bloody or black stools, or rectal bleeding.
    • Bloody or pink urine.
  • Tell your doctor about all your medicines.

    Aspirin should not be taken with many prescription and over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, herbal remedies, and supplements. So before you start aspirin therapy, talk to your doctor about all the drugs and other remedies you take.

  • Be careful taking pain relievers.

    Although nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen relieve pain and inflammation much like aspirin does, they do not affect blood clotting in the same way that aspirin does. Do not substitute NSAIDs for aspirin. NSAIDs may increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

  • Take NSAIDs safely.

    If you need both aspirin and an NSAID pain reliever every day, talk to your doctor first. Ask your doctor what pain reliever you should take. You may be able to use another type of pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, to treat your pain.

    If you take an NSAID every day, your doctor may recommend that you take the NSAID and aspirin pills at different times. If you take these pills at the same time, aspirin might not work as well to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Do not take the NSAID pill during either the 8 hours before or the 30 minutes after you take aspirin. Here's an example: Take your aspirin. Wait 30 minutes. Then take your NSAID.

    If you take an NSAID once in a while, it does not seem to cause problems with aspirin.

  • Discuss alcohol with your doctor.

    Ask your doctor if you can drink alcohol while you take aspirin. And ask how much you can drink. Too much alcohol with aspirin can cause stomach bleeding.

  • Talk to your doctor if you are pregnant.

    If you are pregnant, do not take aspirin unless your doctor says it is okay.

How do you take it?

Talk to your doctor before taking daily aspirin. It's not right for everyone.

If you and your doctor decide that daily aspirin is right for you, your doctor will recommend a dose of aspirin and how often to take it. Low-dose aspirin (81 mg) is the most common dose used to prevent a heart attack or a stroke. A typical schedule is to take aspirin every day. Be sure you know what dose of aspirin to take and how often to take it.

Aspirin can cause serious bleeding. Be sure you get instructions about how to take aspirin safely.

How can aspirin prevent a heart attack or stroke?

Aspirin slows the blood's clotting action by reducing the clumping of platelets. Platelets are cells that clump together and help to form blood clots. Aspirin keeps platelets from clumping together, thus helping to prevent or reduce blood clots.

Most heart attacks and strokes are caused by blood clots. Blood clots can form in arteries and block the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle or part of the brain.

When taken daily after having a heart attack or stroke, aspirin helps prevent dangerous clots from happening again.

Daily aspirin may also be helpful for preventing clots in some people who are at high risk for a heart attack or stroke if they are also at low risk of bleeding problems, which can happen more while taking aspirin because it reduces clots. That's why it's important to talk to your doctor before starting daily aspirin.

References

References

Citations

  1. Arnett DK, et al. (2019). 2019 ACC/AHA guideline on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Circulation, published online March 17, 2019: CIR0000000000000678. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000678. Accessed March 26, 2019. [Erratum in Circulation, 140(11): e649–e650. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000725. Accessed September 10, 2019.]
  2. Zheng SL, Roddick AJ (2019). Association of aspirin use for primary prevention with cardiovascular events and bleeding events: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA, 321(3): 277–287. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2018.20578. Accessed April 30, 2019.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) Stroke Heart Attack and Unstable Angina Coronary Artery Disease Atrial Fibrillation

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details