According to the FDA, "aspirin shouldn't be used to prevent heart attacks for people who have never had cardiovascular problems."
The agency said aspirin may help prevent a second heart attack, but if you've never had one then the risks of aspirin are not worth the daily dose.
"Bleeding from the stomach is quite common, more rarely bleeding in the brain. so, if you have a low risk of a heart attack then the bleeding risk may overwhelm any potential benefit of aspirin," said Dr. Steve Nissen, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic.
Annie Barnes, who lives at Presbyterian Senior Services Grandparent Family Apartments in the Bronx, aspirin takes daily. "If the doctor prescribed it and you know you had trouble with your heart, then you should try it."
But Gail Fedele, who also lives at the apartment complex in the Bronx and takes aspirin regularly, found the FDA message confusing. "On one side, it says it's harmful. On the other side, it says it doesn't, so what am I supposed to do, stop taking aspirin?"
The ongoing debate came to new light when the Bayer brand asked to market aspirin as a method of preventing primary heart attacks in otherwise healthy people. The FDA said no. Aspirin has been around since the 1800s, but critics said if it hit the market today there would be tougher warnings and it may not be over the counter.
For patients at risk of heart disease, it's still not black and white.
"It's somebody that has every risk factor -- high blood pressure, high cholesterol, strong family history, diabetes -- if you have all of those things ? then some of those people we will treat with aspirin, but it's not very many."
Figuring which people can benefit is the topic of ongoing studies.
For more information, go to the FDA website.