If you’re one of the millions of Americans who regularly take low-dose aspirin to promote a healthier heart, it may be time to stop, but not until you’ve talked with your health care provider.
The latest evidence finds that the risks associated with aspirin use, including bleeding, outweigh the cardiac benefits, according to the US Preventive Services Task Force.
New recommended guidelines, recently finalized by the task force, suggest that people over the age of 60 should not start taking low-dose aspirin unless they have previously had a heart attack or stroke.
Those in the 40-59 age group who may have risk factors but no history of cardiovascular disease should talk to their doctor before deciding on the best course.
“Historically, we’ve been very liberal with aspirin recommendations,” said Araya Negash, DO, a board-certified cardiologist with Spectrum Health. “If people had risk factors for cardiovascular disease, or even if they were a certain age, it was considered helpful.”
Health professionals had considered aspirin a smart step in preventing first heart attacks, with a low risk of other adverse reactions.
“But as more trial data comes in, we’ve realized that while aspirin is a very safe drug, it does have some negative consequences, particularly bleeding,” said Dr. Negash.
The new guidelines take a more measured approach.
In those with a history of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral arterial disease, experts still recommend aspirin.
“It can reduce the risk that you will have another event in the future,” Dr. Negash said.
But for the broader population, where it’s sometimes used to prevent a first heart attack, aspirin’s potential benefits may not be there, he said.
Before making any changes, you should talk to your provider.
While that’s good advice for all medications, it’s especially important for people who have significant risk factors or a history of heart disease.
People ages 40 to 59 who are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease should have a more detailed discussion with their primary care physician about the pros and cons of aspirin, Dr. Negash said.
Doctors look at multiple factors to assess heart health and risks.
“Hypertension, smoking, diabetes and a strong family history of heart disease all play a role,” said Dr. Negash. “So in some cases, the potential benefits of aspirin outweigh the small potential risk.”
People over the age of 60 should not start taking aspirin as a preventative medication, according to the new recommendations, which found the The most serious potential damage is bleeding in the stomach, intestines, and brain.