Task Force Updates Low-Dose Aspirin Advice

Researchers have been reconsidering the use of a daily low-dose aspirin regime for heart health in recent years and after much review, the United States Preventive Services Task Force has issued a new recommendation on aspirin use.  The latest task force advice on aspirin use is the first update in six years – and it warns against adults over 60 beginning an aspirin regime for primary prevention. 

According to a recent New York Times report, taking a daily low-dose aspirin as a prevention measure for adults who have never suffered a heart attack or stroke, and do not have heart disease may do more harm than good.   Even a daily baby aspirin can cause serious harm and increase the risk for internal bleeding among older adults without a history of heart attack, stroke, or surgery such as stenting or bypass. 

People who have had a cardiovascular event may have a higher risk for a second heart attack or stroke and their doctor may continue to use aspirin in their preventative treatment.  The task force also found that the benefit of taking daily low-dose aspirin for adults between the ages of 40 and 59 would be small.  If however, they have a greater than 10 percent risk for cardiovascular disease over the next decade, they may decide with their doctor’s advice to being a daily aspirin regime. 

Similar guidelines for older adults were developed by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association in 2019 when routine aspirin for primary prevention was discouraged for patients over the age of 70.  With growing evidence that aspirin didn’t significantly reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke, but led to a higher incidence of bleeding, research suggests the harm of aspirin outweighs the benefit for elderly adults.  

The risk for a serious bleed that can lead to hospitalization due to a low-dose aspirin regime among older adults is higher for people with a history of bleeding from ulcers or an aneurysm, or among adults who take blood thinners, steroids, or anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen.   

As always, never stop or start any medication suddenly without talking first to your doctor.  You can help lower your risk for a heart attack or stroke by stopping smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels, eating a healthy diet that avoids processed meats, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise.