After years of advising adults at a higher risk of heart disease to take aspirin daily as a preventative measure, health experts announced on Tuesday that their stance on the subject has shifted dramatically.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released a draft statement saying that they will begin advising adults 60 and older to refrain from taking aspirin daily to prevent heart attack and stroke. The panel stated that new evidence brought to their attention since they recommended daily aspirin therapy in 2016 suggests that the risk of internal bleeding that comes with aspirin makes its ability to prevent heart disease not worth it.
Daily use of aspirin can lead to internal bleeding. This bleeding takes place in the stomach, intestines, and brain and the risk of experiencing this bleeding is compounded with age.
“Daily aspirin use may help prevent heart attacks and strokes in some people, but it can also cause potentially serious harms, such as internal bleeding,” said John Wong, a doctor and Task Force member.
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But the panel also said that adults in their 40s and 50s could still safely take aspirin as a line of defense against heart disease if a physician determines that they are at higher risk while also lacking a history of the illness. It’s also the first time the task force has issued a guidance for those in their 40s to consider taking the drug daily in order to preempt a cardiac event.
“It’s important that people who are 40 to 59 years old and don’t have a history of heart disease have a conversation with their clinician to decide together if starting to take aspirin is right for them,” Wong said.
The tasks force also clarified that their new stance does not apply to adults who have suffered heart attacks or strokes before. Health officials maintain that such individuals continue to take aspirin daily as a protective measure.
The panel had once advised low-dose aspirin therapy for people ages 50 to 59 who were at a greater than 10% risk for cardiovascular disease but not at risk for internal bleeding. Those 60 to 69 who met the same standards were told that their decision “should be an individual one.”
“There’s no longer a blanket statement that everybody who’s at increased risk for heart disease, even though they never had a heart attack, should be on aspirin,” said Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng, another member of the task force and the research director of family medicine and community health at the University of Hawaii. “We need to be smarter at matching primary prevention to the people who will benefit the most and have the least risk of harms.”