Talk With Your Health Care Provider About Taking Aspirin to Prevent Strokes

Patient Brochure

This patient brochure provides information about the use of aspirin to prevent ischemic strokes in women.

How does aspirin help women prevent strokes?

Plaque is a sticky substance that sometimes builds up and blocks arteries in the neck. These arteries are supposed to take blood to the brain, but when an artery is blocked, a stroke can occur. Aspirin can help blood flow smoothly to the brain.

Diagram of the inside view of the blood vessel, showing spots of cholesterol and plaque building up on the vessel wall.  

If you are a woman aged 55-79, talk with your provider about whether to take aspirin to reduce the chances of a stroke.

Does aspirin also help men prevent strokes?

Aspirin is not useful for preventing strokes in men, but it is useful for preventing heart attacks. Go to the brochure, Talk with Your Health Care Provider About Taking Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attacks, for more information.

What increases the chances of having a stroke?

The older you are, the greater the chance that you can have a stroke.

Other risk factors for stroke include:

  • Atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heart beat).
  • Heart disease.
  • An enlarged heart.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Diabetes.
  • Smoking.

The more of these risk factors you have, the greater your chances of having a stroke.

How much can aspirin reduce the chance of having a stroke?

That depends on your age, your health, and your lifestyle.

If you smoke, the best way to prevent a stroke is to quit smoking.

Whether you smoke or not, taking aspirin gives you some protection against a stroke. In general, aspirin reduces the chance of a first stroke by about 17% in women.

Is there any harm in taking aspirin?

Taking aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach. This can sometimes be serious. This risk increases with age. This risk also increases if aspirin is used together with another anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen or naprosyn (Advil®, Motrin®, Naproxen®, Aleve®, etc.).

While aspirin can prevent one type of stroke, it does increase the chances of a rare, different kind of stroke.

Should you take aspirin?

It's always a good idea to talk with your provider before taking aspirin to prevent a stroke.

  • If you have already had a stroke, you should take aspirin unless your provider says not to.
  • If your chances of a stroke are high, the benefits of taking aspirin probably outweigh the harms.
  • Older people are more likely to have a stroke. But, they are also more likely to have serious stomach bleeding if they take aspirin.

How much aspirin should you take?

If you and your provider decide that aspirin is right for you, then you should take either:

  • One baby aspirin (81 mg) every day, or
  • One regular aspirin (325 mg) every other day.

Taking more aspirin is not any better and can cause serious stomach bleeding. If you have side effects, tell your provider.

Here are some questions to ask your provider:

___ What are my chances of having a stroke?
___ Would I benefit from taking aspirin?
___ Would I be harmed by taking aspirin?
___ Will aspirin interfere with my other medications?
___ How long should I take aspirin?

Do you have other questions for your provider? Write them down here.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Page last reviewed June 2009
Internet Citation: Talk With Your Health Care Provider About Taking Aspirin to Prevent Strokes: Patient Brochure. June 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/prevention/disease/aspirinwom.html