Federal health officials are changing course in their previously well-held recommendation that American adults take aspirin to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
For decades, taking a low-dose aspirin has been recommended to improve heart health, but on Tuesday, Oct. 12, an expert panel from the US Preventive Services Task Force updated its guidance.
The previous guidance recommended daily low-dose aspirin for people over 50 who were at higher risk for heart attacks or strokes in the next decade and who weren’t at higher risk for bleeding.
Instead, the updated guidelines recommend that adults in their 40s and 50s only take aspirin as a preventive measure if their doctors determine they are at higher risk for heart disease, contrary to previous guidance, which didn’t address anyone younger than 50.
People 60 and older are now advised not to start taking aspirin to prevent first heart attacks or strokes.
The new recommendations do not apply to people who have already had heart attack or strokes, who are still advised to take aspirin regularly as a preventive measure.
It comes based on mounting evidence that the risk of serious side effects outweighs the benefit of what was once considered a relatively inexpensive weapon in the fight against heart disease.
The guidelines, which are not yet finalized, have the potential to impact tens of millions of adults who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, which is still the leading cause of death in Americans.
Recommendations have been posted for public comments, which can be submitted between now and early November.
“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,” Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng, a member of the national task force who is the research director of family medicine and community health at the University of Hawaii stated.
“We need to be smarter at matching primary prevention to the people who will benefit the most and have the least risk of harms.
“The latest evidence is clear: starting a daily aspirin regimen in people who are 60 or older to prevent a first heart attack or stroke is not recommended. However, this Task Force recommendation is not for people already taking aspirin for a previous heart attack or stroke; they should continue to do so unless told otherwise by their clinician."
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