• Cardiovascular

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Aspirin for heart health not headaches

Once the go-to pain reliever in the medicine cabinet, aspirin's identity has changed a lot in the past century. No longer recommended as a treatment for pain, it's now prescribed by health care providers to help some patients' heart health.

Jason Howland has more in this Mayo Clinic Minute.

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The old cliché is "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning." A mainstay in medicine cabinets for more than 100 years as a popular pain reliever, the take on aspirin now by health care providers is much different.

"Aspirin isn't really used anymore to treat pain," says Dr. Carrie Krieger, a clinical pharmacist at Mayo Clinic.

Instead, aspirin often is prescribed to reduce the chances of heart attack and stroke for those at high risk.

"It's an 81-milligram dose of aspirin or not more than 325 milligrams of aspirin that's recommended for certain patients and in certain cases once a day," says Dr. Summer Allen, a Mayo Clinic family physician.

The chemical makeup of aspirin creates an anti-platelet effect on the blood that keeps it from clotting. Taking too much can cause bleeding problems. And children should almost never take aspirin.

"Children can develop something called Reye's syndrome," says Dr. Krieger.

So while it might be over-the-counter, long-term use should only be doctor's orders.

"Where people run into problems is the daily and regular use of it for long periods of time," says Dr. Allen.