For decades, many doctors have recommended aspirin to patients at high risk of heart disease as a way to reduce the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke.
But what about high blood pressure?
This condition increases the chances of a heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues, so you may think it’s smart to take aspirin to lower hypertension.
However, taking aspirin not only isn’t linked to blood pressure benefits, it also isn’t suitable for everyone and may increase the risk of some health problems.
To help you stay safe, in this article, I’ll discuss hypertension, the potential benefits and risks of taking aspirin for heart health, proven ways to lower hypertension, and when it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider about whether aspirin therapy may be right for you.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure.
It means that when blood flows through your circulatory system, it exerts too much force on the walls of the arteries.
Over time, that pressure can damage your heart and narrow your veins.
Repeated blood pressure readings that include systolic blood pressure (top number) above 130 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) above 80 mm Hg indicate hypertension.
High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease as well as health conditions such as:
- Coronary artery disease
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Vision loss
- Renal disease
- Heart failure
- Cognition problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
If you have hypertension, you can take action to lower your blood pressure and improve your health.
Making a few lifestyle changes—such as eating a healthier diet, getting enough physical activity, managing stress, and reducing salt—can help manage blood pressure.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your blood pressure, antihypertensive medication may be necessary.
What Is Low-Dose Aspirin?
Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, is an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine that people most often take to treat headache, body pain, toothache, and fever.
Aspirin comes in a variety of forms:
- Traditional tablet
- Delayed-release tablet
- Chewable tablet
- Enteric-coated tablet
- Extended-release capsule
- Chewing gum
Depending on the form, dosage strengths range from 75-500 milligrams (mg).
When people take a daily low dose of aspirin (also called “baby aspirin”), they usually take between 75-325 mg a day.
Why Doctors Recommend Low-Dose Aspirin
Aspirin works like other NSAIDs, and it has the added benefit of reducing the clotting action of blood platelets.
This effect can decrease the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
For that reason, doctors sometimes prescribe a low dose of daily aspirin to people who’ve had a heart attack or who have a history of heart disease.
For these individuals, aspirin may improve blood flow and prevent future major cardiovascular events.
Before a doctor prescribes aspirin, they consider someone’s:
- Medical history
- Family health history
- Use of prescription medications, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and dietary supplements
- Allergies and sensitivities
If someone is a good candidate for daily aspirin therapy, the doctor will recommend a specific dosage strength and time of day to take the aspirin.
Risks of Low-Dose Aspirin
Not everyone should take aspirin daily.
People who have never experienced a heart attack or do not have a history of heart disease may not experience any benefit and may increase the risk of:
- Airway inflammation
- Bleeding in the brain
- Increased bruising or bleeding
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Kidney failure
- Liver damage
- Stomach irritation
Do not take daily aspirin if you are taking other blood thinners, certain cough medicines, or dietary supplements that are known to thin the blood, as that can increase your risk of developing harmful side effects.
If you are pregnant; have a bleeding disorder, asthma, stomach ulcer, kidney disease, or liver disease; or if your high blood pressure is uncontrolled, do not take a daily dose of aspirin without talking to your doctor first.
Other Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, you can take steps to help lower it.
For many people, eating a healthier diet, exercising more regularly, quitting smoking, and losing weight can help return blood pressure to normal.
However, if your blood pressure is very high or lifestyle modifications don’t make enough of an impact, your doctor might recommend prescription or OTC medication.
Eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruit, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats and limits red meat, salt, and processed foods may help lower high blood pressure.
Many doctors recommend that hypertensive patients follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
This flexible eating plan promotes eating foods rich in potassium, magnesium, fiber, protein, and calcium and limiting sodium, fat, and sugar intake.
Studies have shown that people with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension who follow DASH diet guidelines reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol levels within a few weeks.
The nicotine in tobacco products narrows veins and increases heart rate, which in turn raises blood pressure.
It also hardens the arteries and makes blood more likely to clot, increasing the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
When you quit smoking cigarettes, the health impacts are immediate.
Within a few hours of your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate drop to lower levels.
Within a day, your risk of heart attack decreases (and continues to decrease after that).
After a few weeks, you may begin to notice that your circulatory system has improved and you feel more warmth in your hands and feet.
By the time you’ve gone a year without smoking, your heart attack risk drops to half that of an active smoker.
People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
That’s because excess weight means the heart has to pump harder to circulate blood throughout the body, leading to hypertension.
Obese people are also more likely to develop sleep apnea, a breathing condition that causes high blood pressure and increases the risk of abnormal heartbeat, heart attack, and other circulatory conditions.
When overweight and obese patients shed 10 pounds, it can reduce blood pressure and significantly improve their overall health and quality of life.
Regular physical activity improves heart health and may lower blood pressure.
Both cardiovascular exercise (such as walking, running, biking, swimming, or dancing) and strength training (with weights, resistance bands, or just body weight) have benefits.
Exercising only works if you keep at it, so seek out physical activities you will enjoy for the long haul.
If you have never worked out before, talk to your healthcare provider about ways to start slow so that you don’t injure yourself or overdo it.
As long as you keep moving, you should begin to see positive effects of your new active daily regimen in about 1-3 months.
If your blood pressure is very high or if lifestyle modifications haven’t made enough change, your doctor might recommend a prescription medication to reduce and manage your blood pressure.
Depending on your health history, sensitivities, and other factors, your doctor might suggest any of the following:
- ACE inhibitors: Medications that block the production of an enzyme that constricts the veins, helping the arteries relax and decreasing blood pressure.
- Alpha-2 receptor agonists: Medications that depress the adrenaline-producing part of the nervous system, slowing heart rate and allowing the veins to relax.
- Alpha-blockers: Medications that prevent a hormone from constricting muscles in the veins, helping them relax and lowering blood pressure.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers: Medications that block the action of an enzyme that constricts the veins, helping the arteries relax and decreasing blood pressure.
- Beta-blockers: Medications that block adrenaline, causing the heart to beat more slowly and blood pressure to fall.
- Calcium channel blockers: Medications that block calcium from entering the heart, relaxing the arteries and decreasing blood pressure.
- Central agonists: Medications that disallow blood vessel constriction, which reduces blood pressure.
- Combined alpha and beta-blockers: A combination that is most often delivered intravenously to people with severely high blood pressure.
- Diuretics: Medications that help the body expel excess sodium and water through the urine to reduce blood pressure.
- Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors: Medications that block muscles in the veins from constricting, allowing blood vessels to relax and lowering blood pressure.
- Renin-inhibitors: Medications that inhibit the production of an enzyme that leads to high blood pressure.
- Vasodilators: Medications that dilate the arteries and allow them to widen, reducing blood pressure.
Some of these medications do not mix well with others.
Always inform your doctor of all prescription drugs, over-the-counter treatments, and homeopathic remedies (including dietary supplements) you regularly take so that they can make an informed decision and recommend the correct medicine and dosage.
When to See a Doctor
You can develop high blood pressure without experiencing any symptoms.
That’s why all adults need to monitor their blood pressure regularly to ensure that nothing is amiss.
If you are between 18-40, you should get your blood pressure checked with a doctor at least once every 3-5 years.
If you are older than 40, you are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and should get checked once a year.
After you are diagnosed with elevated blood pressure, it’s essential to talk to your doctor about the steps you can take to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular health conditions.
If you monitor your high blood pressure at home and discover that your numbers are highly elevated, you may require medical attention.
If you have a systolic pressure of 180 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 120 mm Hg or higher, you are in hypertensive crisis and may experience damage to your heart and blood vessels.
Be sure that your reading is accurate, and then call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room for medical attention immediately.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
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Anti-Hypertensive Medications and Risk for Incident Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: Collaborative Meta-Analysis of Individual Participant Data From Prospective Cohort Studies. (2019).
Antihypertensive Effects of Aspirin: What Is the Evidence? (2010).
Aspirin for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke: Know the Facts. (2019).
Before Using Aspirin to Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke, What You Should Know. (2016).
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Know Your Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure. (2017).
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