Can aspirin help prevent heart attacks?

(WJLA) - John Curley says he needs to stray strong in order to keep up with his job as a contractor. Following doctor’s orders, he has been taking a baby aspirin a day for nearly a decade in hopes of keeping his heart healthy:

“I'm on it and I'm gonna stay on it until the end...I know a lot of people with heart problems and they've been on the aspirin and they haven't had a heart attack."

That has been the conventional wisdom, and aspirin maker Bayer even wanted government approval to put a message on its bottles saying aspirin prevents heart attacks. But the FDA studied the issue, and concluded that a daily aspirin regimen actually does little to prevent a first heart attack.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center Dr. Reginald Robinson has followed the protocol and recommended low-dose aspirin to his patients who are at high risk of a heart attack – but he says that he isn’t surprised by the FDA’s findings, and adds that the risks do outweigh the benefits:

“Aspirin, even though it's been around for decades, still holds the risk of causing bleeding -- whether it's in the brain or the digestive system."

Ron Stancheck has been following doctor’s orders for years, taking a baby aspirin a day in the hopes of warding off a heart attack. He believes that it has worked, and has no plans to change anything he’s doing:

"There's no man who is exactly the same. It may work for me and it may not work for someone else."

Editor’s note. An earlier version of this story referred to Dr. Reginald Robinson as a cardiologist. He is an MD specializing in cardiology.