A number of studies have found that people who have suffered a heart attack can reduce the chance of a second attack by taking aspirin regularly. Aspirin works by preventing platelets in the blood from clumping together. This reduces the chance that a blood clot will form in an artery that is already clogged by a plaque.
The American Heart Association recommends that people who have had a heart attack, unstable angina, ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attacks (known as TIAs or "little strokes") consider taking aspirin regularly after consultation with their doctor.
The task force does not recommend the use of aspirin to prevent strokes in women younger than 55 years or to prevent heart attacks in men younger than 45.
The task force said there is not enough evidence to assess the benefits and risks of using aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease in men and women 80 years or older.
If you are taking regular aspirin to prevent a second heart attack or stroke, you should tell your doctor immediately if you have any side effects. Stomach pain is the most common. You also should tell your dentist or surgeon before you have any surgery (even minor) or dental work because aspirin may increase the likelihood of bleeding during the procedure. The tendency to bleed persists for up to 10 days after the drug is stopped.