Both aspirin and cholesterol-reducing medications such as statins play a part in reducing heart disease. Both reduce atherosclerosis, the main underlying factor in the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to an article published in the 2004 "U.S. Cardiology" by researchers from the University of Miami School of Medicine. You not only can take both aspirin and a cholesterol-lowering agent but many doctors say that you should, since they have different but important mechanisms for protecting against heart disease.
Most acute heart disease occurs because of thrombosis, formation of blood clots that form at the site of atherosclerosis. Blood clots that break off travel to the brain to cause stroke or lodge in blood vessels in the heart, blocking blood flow. Aspirin inhibits thromboxane A2, which causes platelet aggregation. Platelets that stick together cause clots. Taking aspirin reduces the risk of heart attack by about 33 percent and the risk of stroke by about 25 percent, according to the researchers from the University of Miami. Take one baby aspirin per day or one-half of an adult aspirin every other day, recommends cardiologist Stephen Sinatra, M.D. recommends.
Statins improve cardiovascular health by lowering low-density lipoprotein, the "bad" cholesterol levels as well as lowering triglycerides. Benefits of statin in reducing the risk of heart attack by around 33 percent and the risk of stroke by around 25 percent appear after one to three years of use, the University of Miami researchers state.
In addition to reducing platelet aggregation for aspirin and lowering cholesterol for statins, both drugs appear to reduce inflammation, which contributes to damage on the interior blood vessels walls that can lead to atherosclerosis and clot formation. Both drugs reduce C-reactive protein levels, a marker for inflammation and for the increased risk of heart disease. In two large studies, the Long-term Intervention with Pravastatin in Ischemic Disease or LIPID trial and the CARE trial, a combination of statins and aspirin reduced the risk of heart disease than either one alone.
Both statins and aspirin do have risks. Because aspirin acts as a blood thinner, it can increase the risk of excessive bleeding. Aspirin can also cause gastrointestinal ulcers. Statins cause muscle and joint pain along with GI upset; in rare cases, statins can cause rhabdomyolysis, a serious disorder that can cause kidney failure from substances released during muscle breakdown. If you take a statin medication, ask your doctor about the use of aspirin before adding it to your daily drug regimen.
- Touch Cardiology; Aspirin and Statins to Decrease Risks of Cardiovascular Disease - The Need for Wider Utilization; Arthur Agatson, et al.; 2004
- "Annals of Internal Medicine"; Aspirin, Statins, or Both Drugs for the Primary Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease Events in Men: A Cost–Utility Analysis; Michael Pignone, M.D., et al.; March 2006
- Dr. Sinatra.com; Statin Drugs and Baby Aspirin; Steven Sinatra, M.D.