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Johns Hopkins Health - Want to Lower Your Heart Attack Risk? Chew on This

Winter 2015
Issue No. 27

Want to Lower Your Heart Attack Risk? Chew on This

Date: January 6, 2015

bottle pouring out asprin tablets

Maybe you’ve heard that chewing a baby aspirin a day can prevent heart attacks. That doesn’t mean you should start self-medicating, says cardiologist Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. Find out from your doctor whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Aspirin reduces the chances of a cardiac event by making it less likely that platelets in the blood will adhere to each other and form a clot, leading to a heart attack. But reducing platelets also increases the likelihood of hemorrhagic (bleeding) strokes and gastrointestinal bleeding.

A doctor can assess heart attack risk by analyzing age, race, gender, cholesterol level, blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and other factors. For more insight, he or she might recommend a cardiac CT scan to determine plaque levels.

“It’s a risk-benefit equation,” Blaha says. “Your risk has to be high enough for you to benefit from aspirin. And most people can’t make the determination for themselves.”

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