Vitamin E vs. Baby Aspirin For Heart Protection

We answer our latest question regarding what is better to use for heart protection: Vitamin E or baby aspirin.

Question

My Cardiologist recommended that I take a baby aspirin daily. Wouldn't daily vitamin E supplements accomplish the same goal? Please inform.

Asked by Austin On Sep 22, 2017

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By PharmacistAnswers Staff

On Sep 22, 2017

Vitamin E is not recommended as a replacement for baby aspirin (which is 81 mg by the way). There are many reasons for this, but we will go over some of the more salient points.

Baby Aspirin Has More Efficacy Data

Baby aspirin in the correct population has been shown time and time again in studies to reduce the risk of heart attacked and stroke. I say correct population because there ARE guidelines for who should be baby aspirin daily.

You are in the age group where aspirin is recommended as both primary prevention (before the first heart attack/stroke) and secondary prevention (after the first heart attack/stroke). As long as you don’t have any history of bleeding or on anticoagulant therapy, your doctor is following the current guidelines in his recommendation.

In fact, based on studies, taking a baby aspirin daily reduces your relative risk for a stroke by AT LEAST 17%.

Vitamin E Isn't Well-Studied

Vitamin E, like all herbals and supplements, have the disadvantage of not being as thoroughly and well-studied as it ought to be. There just isn’t a lot of money to be made by drug manufacturers to invest large amounts of time and money into expensive studies.

That isn’t to say vitamin E may or not be effective, but with the vast majority of medical professionals using what is called evidence-based medicine (which is making recommendations based on hard scientific data), you would be hard pressed to find a doctor to recommend vitamin E over a proven drug like aspirin.

Conflicting Evidence

Vitamin E has had its share of controversy lately as you may have noticed in the news. Recent studies and analysis have suggested that over 200 IU of vitamin E daily can actually INCREASE the risk of having deadly strokes, specifically hemorrhagic strokes.

Vitamin E does decrease platelet clotting (thin the blood) but it would be tough to find a safe and effective dose for all patients (especially with the lack of studies). That antiplatelet activity which is somewhat unpredictable is what may be causing an increase in strokes to those that take it.

Vitamin E has also recently been associated with a possible increase in the risk of prostate cancer (I know that doesn’t affect you but it is worth mentioning). The current recommendations and guidelines specifically state to not take vitamin E for stroke prevention.

Final Words

So bottom line, there just isn’t enough evidence for the benefits of vitamin E to recommend that over baby aspirin. The few negative studies, appropriate of not, have caused vitamin E to fall out of favor with the vast majority of medical professionals. If you would like any more follow up information, we would be more than happy to provide it.

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger Pharm.D

Dr. Brian Staiger is a licensed pharmacist in New York State and the founder of PharmacistAnswers.com. He graduated from the University At Buffalo with a Doctor Of Pharmacy degree in 2010. He has been featured in several publications including the Huffington Post as well as a variety of health and pharmacy related blogs. Please feel free to reach out to him directly if you have any questions or want to connect! Brian.Staiger@PharmacistAnswers.com; Office: 716-389-3076

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