The Basics: Overview
Taking low-dose aspirin (or “baby aspirin”) regularly can lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, and colorectal cancer. For most people, aspirin is safe. But it’s not right for everyone.
Ask your doctor about taking aspirin regularly if you are age 50 to 59 and you have any of these risk factors for heart disease:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Talk with your doctor about your health history and ask if low-dose aspirin is right for you.
Usually, taking aspirin to prevent disease means taking it every day. Most people will need to take aspirin regularly for at least 5 to 10 years to get all of the benefits. Make sure your doctor says it's okay before you start taking aspirin every day.
The Basics: Benefits and Risks
What are the benefits of taking aspirin regularly?
Taking low-dose aspirin regularly can reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by preventing blood clots. Blood clots are clumps of thickened blood that can block blood flow to parts of the body. They can cause serious health problems or even death.
A blood clot can:
- Block blood flow to your heart and cause a heart attack
- Prevent blood from getting to your brain and cause a stroke
Taking aspirin regularly can prevent blood clots and lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. If you've already had a heart attack or stroke, aspirin can lower your risk of having another one.
Taking aspirin regularly for at least 5 to 10 years can also lower your risk of colorectal cancer –– but experts aren’t sure why.
Can taking aspirin every day cause any side effects?
Taking aspirin regularly isn't right for everyone. For some people, it may cause side effects –– like bleeding in the stomach.
Talk with your doctor before you start taking aspirin. Be sure to tell your doctor about any health conditions you have (like stomach problems or bleeding problems).
To learn more, read these benefits and risks of taking aspirin every day.
Take Action: Talk with Your Doctor
Take these steps to protect your health if you are at risk of heart attack or stroke.
Find out if daily aspirin is right for you.
Your doctor can help you decide if low-dose aspirin is the right choice for you. Talk with your doctor about:
- Your risk of heart attack or stroke
- What kind of aspirin to take
- How much to take
- How often to take it
- Side effects that it may cause
It's important to tell your doctor about all the other medicines you take, including vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter medicines (medicines you can get without a prescription). It may be dangerous to mix aspirin with other medicines.
What about cost?
Aspirin is inexpensive and sold over-the-counter. For some adults, aspirin is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010. Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan.
For information about other services covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.
Know your family’s health history.
Your family history affects your risk for heart attack, stroke, and colorectal cancer. Use this family health history tool to keep track of your family’s health. Share this information with your doctor.
Take Action: Aspirin Tips
Use aspirin safely.
If you and your doctor decide that regularly taking low-dose aspirin is right for you, follow these safety tips:
- Make sure you understand how much aspirin to take and how often to take it. Most people who take aspirin to prevent disease take 81 mg every day –– though your doctor may recommend you take a higher dose every other day.
- Talk with your doctor before you start taking a new medicine or vitamin. Ask if it’s safe to take with aspirin.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation. This means no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. Alcohol can increase some risks of taking aspirin regularly.
- Check with your doctor first if you want to stop taking aspirin regularly.
- Get more tips about using medicines safely.
Make it easy to remember.
Here are a few things that may help you remember to take aspirin regularly:
- Take it at the same time every day. For example, take it after you brush your teeth or when you eat breakfast.
- Put a reminder note on your bathroom mirror where you will see it each day.
- Use a weekly pillbox to keep track of the medicines you take each day.
Take Action: Healthy Habits
Take steps to protect your health.
Taking low-dose aspirin regularly is just one of many ways to stay healthy.
To lower your risk of heart disease, stroke, and colorectal cancer:
Keep your heart healthy.
Get tested for colorectal cancer.
If you are age 50 to 75, get screened (tested) regularly for colorectal cancer. Screening can help prevent colorectal cancer or find it early, when it’s easier to treat. Learn more about colorectal cancer screening.
Content last updated July 24, 2020
This information on aspirin was adapted from materials from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Food and Drug Administration.
Robert McNellis, MPH, PA
Senior Advisor for Primary Care
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality