Adults who have never had a stroke or a heart attack should take aspirin every day if they want to keep it that way, according to new U.S. guidelines.
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People in their 50s who are at risk for cardiovascular disease, including those who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are obese, or have a history of smoking, could benefit from taking aspirin as a part of their daily lives and stay on it for at least a decade. This comes from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, which is a government-backed panel of independent physicians.
This daily low-dose of aspirin may also help protect against cancer in some people.
However, because aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach and brain, Live Science cautions that those with bleeding disorders shouldn't take the medicine without consulting a doctor.
“As with any drug, patients and their doctors must balance the benefits and risks of aspirin,” said USPSTF chair Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California, San Francisco.
The key number is 81 milligrams from those aged 50 to 59 who have at least a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next decade.
This advice only applies for people with those ages, as the bleeding risk increases as you age. There are still investigations into whether or not this approach makes sense for people outside of the 50 to 59 age group.
“Some people may benefit from aspirin more than others, which is why there are several recommendations based on age,” Bibbins-Domino added by email. The Task Force encourages people to talk with their doctor about whether taking aspirin is appropriate, she said.
Around 40% of adults over 50 already take a daily aspirin to prevent a heart attack or avoid another one. However, the FDA has denied Bayer HealthCare LLC's attempt to market aspirin as preventing heart attacks.
“All that aspirin does if your heart attack risk is really low is cause you harm,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, who served on an FDA advisory panel that recommended against widespread use of aspirin for primary prevention.
One in ten people who are taking aspirin don't strictly need it, according to research.
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Aspirin works by preventing blood cells called platelets from sticking together and forming clots, which is what leads to heart attacks and strokes.