The statistics are staggering: As the leading cause of death in the United States, cardiovascular (or heart) disease accounts for more than 2,200 deaths per day, or one every 39 seconds. Furthermore, the American Heart Association (AHA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently estimate that every year about 785,000 Americans will have their first heart attack, and another 470,000 will have a recurrent attack.
And for a number of patients, talking to their doctors about low-dose daily aspirin therapy may be the “heart-smart” thing to do.
For more than 100 years, aspirin has been used as a pain reliever. Since the 1970s, however, studies showed aspirin could also be used to prevent and manage heart disease. There are a variety of patients who may benefit from aspirin therapy, including people who have had a heart attack, stroke or those with any risk factor for heart disease or stroke, as well as men over age 50 and women over age 60 who have diabetes along with any other risk factor.
According to the AHA, aspirin can help prevent heart attack. More specifically, the AHA recommends that people at high risk of heart attack take a daily low-dose aspirin (if told to by their health care provider), and that heart attack survivors regularly take low-dose aspirin.
“You should never start aspirin therapy on your own,” says cardiologist Prerana Manohar, MD. “If you feel that a daily low-dose aspirin regimen may make sense for you, be sure to talk with your doctor about its benefits and risks.”
Aspirin benefits the heart in several ways. It decreases pain, inhibits blood clots and most significantly, it reduces the risk of death, particularly among people with heart disease. Additionally, aspirin can significantly reduce heart damage during a heart attack, and can prevent the occurrence of future heart problems.
“For individuals at high risk of suffering a cardiac event, aspirin really can make a difference,” Manohar says. “For my patients who are prescribed a daily low-dose regimen, I encourage them to purchase store-brand aspirin sold at leading retailers and pharmacies. These products are regulated by the FDA and use the same active ingredients, but cost significantly less than the brand names.”
Allegan, Mich.-based Perrigo is a pharmaceutical company that manufactures and distributes most of the over-the-counter medications found under store-brand labels at leading retailers, grocers and pharmacies. Perrigo offers consumers a variety of affordable store-brand aspirin choices that compare with a variety of brand names, including Bayer, Ecotrin and St. Joseph.
Another important line of defense in protecting against heart disease is to know and maintain your numbers. This means weight/body mass index, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, as all have an impact on heart health. Additionally, exercising 30 minutes a day most days of the week and eating a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fats, cholesterol and salt are some of the very best strategies for preventing heart disease. Avoiding the use of tobacco products, which according to Mayo Clinic is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease, is also critical. Finally, seeing the doctor for regular screenings is vital for managing and preventing heart disease.
“Remember to be good to your heart by eating right, moving more and working in partnership with your doctor to monitor and manage your health,” says Manohar. “Together you can work to control any risk factors and determine if daily low-dose aspirin therapy is a heart-smart decision for you.”