For many patients, the common aspirin can safely prevent heart attacks and strokes. Others may require a prescription medicine. Which might be right for you?
Aspirin is so inexpensive and commonly used, it may not even seem like a drug. But used properly, it can be a very important medicine. In the right patients, aspirin can:
Sometimes blood clotting can be a problem, causing a heart attack or stroke. Both aspirin and Plavix (clopidogrel) make it harder for platelets in the blood to stick together and form a clot. In this way, both drugs can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Both medications can also slightly increase the risk of bleeding. Your doctor can decide when the benefits of either drug will outweigh its risks.
Many studies have compared the effects of aspirin and Plavix. Here are some summaries to discuss with your doctor when making this important choice.
Even if you have never had a heart attack or stroke, or other problems with your arteries, your doctor may recommend low-dose aspirin to prevent these from occurring in the future. Such “primary prevention” is one of the best ways to lower your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
You may benefit from primary prevention if you are:
You can look up your own personal risk for heart disease at this website:
If you had a heart attack in the past year or had a coronary artery stent placed in the past year, talk with your doctor about whether you should take both aspirin and Plavix.
If you had a heart attack or stent placed over a year ago, your doctor may recommend aspirin alone, unless you have any of the following:
If any of these apply, your doctor may choose to prescribe Plavix for you instead of aspirin.
This condition, also called peripheral artery disease, is a narrowing of blood vessels in the legs or arms, and can cause muscle cramping with exercise. Your doctor can perform specific tests to tell if you have peripheral vascular disease (PVD). If you do, your doctor may choose to prescribe Plavix.
These are general guidelines only; all decisions about which medication to take (including aspirin) must be made in consultation with your doctor, since every patient is different.
Check with your doctor if you are taking Plavix but this document suggests that aspirin might be right for you. Aspirin may help reduce your risk of bleeding and may reduce your costs, since Plavix can cost up to 160 times the cost of aspirin and in many cases is no better.
Don’t take aspirin while you are taking Plavix unless your doctor has told you to do so, since this can increase risk of bleeding. Your doctor can decide whether the benefits of taking both aspirin and Plavix outweigh the risk of bleeding.