The case for daily aspirin
A daily aspirin may help to reduce heart ailments and colorectal cancer, according to a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) study.
Their recommendation, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, applies to those men and women in their 50s who are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. Risk factors include high blood pressure, a family history of heart attack or stroke, high cholesterol and a history of smoking.
However, these men and women should only take a low-dose aspirin – 81 milligrams daily – if the risk of heart disease is greater than the risk of complications associated with a daily dose of aspirin, such as bleeding in the stomach and brain. Due to the potential of these complications, those with bleeding disorders should not follow this recommendation.
Dr. Imran Ali, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at Trinity Hospital in Chicago, notes that while there have been successful outcomes in patients taking daily aspirin, everyone has a varied health history, so there is not a one-size-fits-all recommendation for every patient and every age group.
“Before starting any new regimen, such as a daily aspirin, I advise people to speak with their cardiologist or primary care physician first,” says Dr. Ali.
The USPSTF recommends the use of daily aspirin for men ages 45 to 79 years old to fight against heart ailments and colorectal cancer, saying it outweighs the potential harm of gastrointestinal hemorrhaging.
In addition, they recommend daily aspirin for women ages 55 to 79 years old to reduce the possibility of strokes.
Individuals in their 60s who are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease may also take a daily low-dose aspirin, but researchers determined the benefit for this age group to be smaller. It is important to consider the fact that bleeding risk increases as an individual ages, says Dr. Ali.
Overall, “The Task Force found that for 50 to 69 year-olds at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, taking aspirin can help prevent heart attacks and strokes as well as colorectal cancer,” said Dr. Douglas Owens, a former member of the Task Force who led the review, in a news release.
The USPSTF stated there was not enough evidence to determine benefits or risk of a daily aspirin in people younger than 50 or older than 70. The American Diabetes Association also suggests low-dose aspirin therapy for primary prevention in patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes who have an increased cardiovascular risk.
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