Antiplatelets are a group of medicines (e.g. aspirin, clopidogrel, prasugrel, ticagrelor) that stop blood cells (called platelets) from sticking together and forming a blood clot. While this is important to stop bleeding in case of an injury, it can be detrimental when occurring in vital blood vessels such the ones of the heart, the brain or the leg, leading to heart attack, stroke or foot gangrene respectively.
This can happen when these blood vessels are “hardened” or narrowed by blockages (atherosclerosis).
If you've had a heart attack or stroke or if you have peripheral arterial disease, coronary disease, carotid disease or an aortic aneurysm your doctor will likely recommend you take a daily aspirin unless you have a serious allergy or history of bleeding.
Daily aspirin therapy may lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, peripheral, carotid or aortic disease progression; however daily aspirin therapy isn't for everyone and you shouldn't start daily aspirin therapy on your own, as the anticipated risks may outweigh the benefits. Side effects and complications of taking aspirin include:
- Hemorrhagic stroke
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Allergic reaction
Before starting daily aspirin therapy under the advice of your doctor, you should let him or her know if you have a health condition that could increase your risk of bleeding or other complications.
If you're taking aspirin and need a surgical procedure or dental work, be sure to tell the surgeon or dentist that you take daily aspirin, the reason you take it and how much.
There is a risk of excessive bleeding during surgery and you may be asked to discontinue it for 5-7 days; however don't stop taking aspirin without talking to your doctor.
Aspirin may interact with other medications and increase excessively your bleeding risk:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. ibuprofen, naproxen)
- Other anticoagulants (e.g. warfarin, rivaroxaban)