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Aspirin for Coronary Artery Disease


Generic NameBrand Name
AspirinBayer, Bufferin, Ecotrin

How It Works

Aspirin can prevent blood clots from forming in your arteries. This can prevent a heart attack or stroke.

Brand-name aspirin is no more effective than generic or store brands.

Why It Is Used

Aspirin may reduce your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke if you have certain risk factors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoking. If you have a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke, aspirin will have even more benefit for you.

You can take aspirin to help you during a heart attack. After you call or other emergency services, chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin if you are not allergic to aspirin and if there is no other reason that you can't take aspirin. Aspirin slows blood clotting, so a blood clot that is causing the heart attack stays smaller.

You may also take low-dose aspirin (81 mg) every day to help lower the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Low-dose aspirin may be used:

  • After a heart attack, to prevent another one.
  • By people who have coronary artery disease.
  • By people with stable angina.
  • By people with unstable angina.
  • After bypass surgery or angioplasty.
  • By people who have had a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
  • After surgery to prevent a stroke (carotid endarterectomy).
  • By healthy men over age 45 when the benefits of aspirin to prevent a heart attack are greater than the risk of stomach bleeding from taking daily aspirin.
  • By healthy women over age 55 when the benefits of aspirin to prevent a stroke are greater than the risk of stomach bleeding from taking daily aspirin.

How Well It Works

Aspirin can help lower your chance of having a heart attack.1 It also reduces the chance of a stroke or a "mini-stroke." A mini-stroke is also called a TIA. If you have a higher risk for a heart attack or stroke, aspirin will have even more benefit for you.

Daily aspirin can benefit men and women who have never had a heart attack or stroke. But the benefits seem to differ by gender. For men, aspirin seems to work better to prevent a heart attack. And for women, aspirin seems to work better to prevent a stroke.

For people who have had a heart attack or stroke, aspirin can help prevent a second heart attack or stroke.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
  • Coughing up blood, vomiting blood, or passing black, tarry, or bloody stools. (These are signs of bleeding inside your body.)

Call your doctor right away if you have any unusual bleeding, such as:

  • Blood spots under your skin.
  • A nosebleed that you cannot stop.
  • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Stomach pain or discomfort.
  • Nausea.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

For more information about taking daily aspirin, see the topic Low-Dose Aspirin Therapy.

If you have had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor has probably already prescribed aspirin for you.

If you do not take aspirin, talk to your doctor before you start taking aspirin every day.

For help on the decision to take daily aspirin, see the topic:

Click here to view a Decision Point.Aspirin: Should I Take Daily Aspirin to Prevent a Heart Attack or Stroke?

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments. And call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)Click here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2009). Aspirin for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJohn A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last RevisedJanuary 31, 2011

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