Aspirin has been used for more than 100 years, but its mechanisms of action have only been understood in the past 20 years. Aspirin interferes with arachidonic acid metabolism in platelets and endothelial cells and thereby reduces thromboxane A2 and prostacyclin. It also has other mechanisms of action, including anti-inflammatory roles, protection from oxidative stress, enhancement of fibrinolysis, and suppression of plasma coagulation and platelet-dependent inhibition of thrombin generation. It has been used for primary and secondary prevention of myocardial ischemia, and for primary and secondary prevention of cerebrovascular ischemia. We review the 5 pivotal studies relating to primary prevention for cardiovascular risk and the many studies relating to secondary prevention of myocardial ischemia. We also review the utility of aspirin in primary prevention of myocardial infarction and stroke. We conclude that aspirin is one of the most potent drugs ever discovered and that its effects extend well beyond those of cycloxoxygenase enzyme inhibition. Aspirin treatment does not preclude control of underlying and comorbid conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. For most patients, a daily dose of 325 mg is optimal. Patients must understand the potential for gastrointestinal upset and hemorrhagic complications. The utility of aspirin is greater in coronary artery disease prevention than in cerebrovascular prevention.