Aspirin: The Hypocrite Heart Attack Preventer

AspirinNumerous people, by their own decision, take an aspirin a day, thinking they are doing something exceedingly important in preventing a heart attack. An aspirin indeed does thin the blood. And if you had those LDL cholesterol splinters floating around and some got into the wall of your artery and caused your body to respond by declaring battle—and that battle resulted in some bleeding and the wall of that artery burst open and a clot started forming within the lumen of your artery in your heart—aspirin could indeed interfere with the clotting mechanism and prevent that clot from completely plugging off the blood flow in the artery.

The fallacy is that all the while you are taking the aspirin, you are doing nothing for the real basic problem of allowing LDL cholesterol to enter your arteries. Aspirin is the hypocrite heart attack preventer.

There should be loudspeakers shouting this reality every time someone takes an aspirin in an effort to prevent a heart attack. The bullhorn should be directed right into the ears of the individual, reminding him or her to prevent the problem in the first place, to not eat the foods that cause LDL cholesterol to increase, to get to an ideal weight, and to exercise every day.

Nearly a third of middle-aged Americans regularly take a baby aspirin in hopes of preventing a heart attack or stroke. But some doctors report that they are stopping a lot more patients from taking aspirin than they are starting. A recent article in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine reports on a study of more than one hundred thousand people who had never had a heart attack or stroke. They were given either aspirin or a non-aspirin placebo. Researchers found that the overall risk of dying prematurely is the same with both groups. The aspirin takers are 10 percent less likely to have any type of heart event but were 30 percent more likely to have a serious gastrointestinal bleeding event, a side effect of frequent aspirin use.

In other words, the study concluded that in people without a previous heart attack or stroke, the regular use of aspirin may be more harmful than beneficial. If you haven’t had a heart attack or don’t have any of the precursors of heart disease, ask your doctor whether or not you should be taking aspirin.

But here’s the point in all this. It is my belief that any doctor who instructs you to take aspirin to prevent a clot from form- ing in the battlefield should also tell you how to prevent the battle. If you need to take aspirin, you should definitely establish strategies for preventing a heart attack. If you are not living the proper lifestyle, and only taking the aspirin, you are going bear hunting with a switch. You are giving yourself a false sense of security. If you develop the lifestyle of eating properly to keep your LDL down, exercising to get your HDL up, and eliminating any excess fat from your body that also causes your LDL to be elevated, you are preventing the problem that leads to the clotting to begin with. Focus on preventing the source of the problem.

If your doctor recommends you take an aspirin, by all means take it. But now you also know the importance of developing the proper lifestyle in addition to taking the aspirin.

Don’t ever fool yourself into a false sense of security. Even if you are placed on a medicine to lower your cholesterol, or treat your diabetes, or lower your blood pressure, that pill alone is not the complete answer.


Discover more medical misconceptions and learn the best ways to prevent heart attack, feel better, and live longer in Dr. Furman’s book, Prescription for Life.



“Tablets” image by Darren Robertson courtesy of