from menshealth.com by Christa Sgobba

Does it really ward off heart attacks?

Aspirin has a bunch of uses besides easing your run-of-the-mill headache. It’s been linked to a lower cancer risk, and it may even help clear up your acne.

But what about the drug’s other well-known benefit as a heart protector? Aspirin’s role in heart health isn’t exactly black and white, according to new research published in Clinical Cardiology.

In the study, researchers tracked the health records of over 33,000 patients with atherosclerosis, or the narrowing and hardening of arteries that puts you at risk of heart attack or stroke.

Their findings? People who took aspirin regularly were less likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or die from heart disease—but only if they already had a heart attack, stroke, or other issue involving artery blood flow before. In this group, aspirin cut the risk of those occurrences by 19 percent over a follow up of just over three years. (Here are 5 surprisingly awesome uses for aspirin.)

But there was no reduction in heart attacks or strokes among people who hadn’t previously experienced a heart attack or stroke, the researchers found. (Six guys who actually had a heart attack tell you what it really feels like.)

Aspirin may be associated with increased survival in those who already had a heart attack or stroke by reducing the severity of any future blood clot problems, the researchers say.

Still, because this was an observational study, it can’t prove cause and effect. Further clinical trials must be done to solidify the link regarding what kinds of patients aspirin likely does and does not help.

Like any drug, aspirin can cause side effects, such as gastrointestinal bleeding. If your doctor has you taking aspirin and you’re concerned about its benefit, talk to him or her about it—you don’t want to stop therapy on your own, study author Anthony Bavry, M.D., explains in a news release. Find out more information about whether healthy guys should take aspirin here.