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Can aspirin help me avoid a heart attack?

Is a daily dose a good bet for heart health?

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Dear doctor,

I’m in my 60s and overall fairly healthy. I don’t have heart disease, but want to make sure I don’t have a heart attack. I heard that a daily aspirin can help keep you from having a heart attack. Is that still true?

—Jack

Dear Jack,

Daily aspirin was once thought an easy way to keep from having a heart attack.

But recent studies show that it actually might do more harm than good. That’s because any good from a daily aspirin could be offset by the dangers that come with it. These include internal bleeding and other problems.

Rather than taking a daily aspirin, most people are better off trying healthier habits. These include heart-healthy meals, regular exercise and watching your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Some people should ignore the new "don't take daily aspirin" rule.  They include people who:

  • Have heart disease
  • Had a stroke or heart attack
  • Had bypass surgery
  • Had stents placed in their heart
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Learn how to keep your heart healthy

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Schedule your Annual Wellness Visit.

Get started 

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They should keep taking a low-dose aspirin daily, or whatever their doctor directs them to do.

The bottom line? Don’t start taking a daily aspirin on your own. Ask your doctor if it’s right for you. And, if you take a daily aspirin and want to stop, talk to your doctor first. Suddenly stopping taking a daily aspirin could cause a blood clot.

One final note. If you think you're having a heart attack, call 911. 

When you call, the operator may tell you to chew an aspirin. But first, they will make sure you're not allergic to aspirin. They'll also make sure you don’t have any other problems that would make taking an aspirin during a heart attack too risky. 

It's OK to chew an aspirin if your doctor has earlier told you to do so if you think you're having a heart attack. But call 911 first.

In good health, 

Joshua Jacobs, MD, FAAFP
National Medical Director, Provider Intelligence
Clinical Performance, Optum Care

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Will Medicare cover an Annual Wellness Visit?

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Original Medicare covers the Annual Wellness Visit at 100% of the Medicare-approved amount when you get the service from a provider who accepts Medicare. You pay nothing (no deductible or coinsurance).

Medicare Advantage plans must cover Annual Wellness Visits without applying deductibles, copays or coinsurance when you see a network provider and meet Medicare’s rules for the service.

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Sources:

  • American Heart Association
  • UnitedHealthcare Stride
  • Medicare Interactive

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for professional health care. You should consult an appropriate health care professional for your specific needs.