If you’ve been taking a daily aspirin to help reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke, you might be able to stop.
Preliminary recommendations made last year by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force became final this week. The advisory group now says — in most cases — people age 60 and older should not begin taking a low-dose aspirin each day to prevent heart problems. Exceptions are when a doctor recommends it.
People between the ages of 40 and 59 should consult their doctor before starting a daily aspirin regimen, the task force recommends.
“If you are really healthy, if you’re a healthy 40-year-old with no major risk factors, you will do more harm than good with daily aspirin. Your risk of bleeding will exceed the benefits,” Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in creating the new guidelines, told CNN. “People need to understand that aspirin is not a completely benign or innocent therapy.”
The task force previously said certain people in their 50s and 60s might want to consider a daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack and stroke, and that they might get protection against colorectal cancer. The updated guidance says more evidence of any benefit for colorectal cancer is needed.
“In secondary prevention, aspirin is important. If you have a stent, if you’ve had a myocardial infarction or a stroke, for all of those people, aspirin works. It provides a modest but definite benefit,” Nissen told CNN.
The task force is an independent panel of disease-prevention experts that analyzes medical research and literature and issues periodic advice on measures to help keep Americans healthy.
Aspirin is best known as a pain reliever but it’s also a blood thinner that can reduce the chances of blood clots forming. But aspirin also has risks, even at low doses — mainly bleeding in the digestive tract or ulcers, both of which can be life-threatening.
For more content like this, sign up for the Pulse newsletter here.