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High Blood Pressure and Aspirin for Heart Attacks

Q: Recently I had my blood pressure checked at one of those mall kiosks and the nurse told me it was high, which increases my risk of heart attack. Since then I keep hearing about the benefits of taking an aspirin every day to prevent heart attacks, but I'm allergic to aspirin! I'm really nervous, especially because heart disease runs in my family. Is there something else I can take to protect my heart?

Dr. Donnica: If you truly have high blood pressure, the most important thing for you to do to reduce your heart disease risk is to have a complete physical exam with your doctor. If you have high blood pressure, it must be treated with medication. If you are overweight, your doctor will probably also recommend weight management strategies, reducing salt, and an exercise program.

You should have your cholesterol checked and may need an EKG as well. Your doctor can make risk reduction recommendations based upon these findings and your other risk factors. While aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks as well as recurrent heart attacks in people at risk, it is NOT a treatment for high blood pressure. It is also NOT recommended for those who are allergic to aspirin. While acetaminophen (Tylenol) is a great substitute for aspirin for pain relief in those who are allergic, it has not been shown to have any cardiac risk reduction benefits.

Created: 11/21/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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