You will find a bottle of these pills in virtually every household in the country. We’re talking about aspirin - a medication used by millions every day. While taking the occasional aspirin to stop a headache is safe for most people, the practice of taking a small daily dose of aspirin, or so-called baby aspirin, is under fire, again.
A government-backed panel of US health officials called the US Preventive Services Task Force will change guidelines about using baby aspirin to ward off cardiovascular issues, and posted the new guidelines for public comments earlier this week. Everyone who’s older than 40 should know about these new recommendations.
Did you know that nearly half of Americans past age 70 take a daily small dose of aspirin to prevent stroke and heart disease? Some people were recommended to start taking aspirin by their doctor, and others added it to their daily regimen on their own accord.
Whatever the case may be, baby aspirin has become a widespread and almost routine preventative practice. And we get it. The appeal of averting the leading cause of death with one pill available over the counter is difficult to resist. After all, the heart disease crisis accounts for 1 out of 4 deaths in the US every year according to the CDC.
The only problem is that taking aspirin is not as effective as you may think. In fact, in many cases, it’s dangerous.
According to US Preventive Services Task Force’s guidelines, adults over 60 should NOT start taking aspirin to prevent heart disease and stroke. The health risks associated with daily aspirin use are too substantial to keep recommending it to patients.
“The most serious potential harm is bleeding in the stomach, intestines, and brain. The chance of bleeding increases with age and can be life-threatening,” according to the task force. This is consistent with previous findings that clearly show how the risk of internal hemorrhage and even death increase in patients who take baby aspirin.
We review the findings of three large studies on this topic here, and the task force lists information and references that support this claim on their website.
The changing guidelines also review adults in the age group between 40 to 59 who also have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. They point out that there may be a small benefit of aspirin use for people in this age range, but only for people who are not at increased risk for bleeding.
In addition, it’s important to note that these guidelines do not apply to those who already had a heart attack or stroke, as well as those who are already taking low-dose aspirin. If you’re currently taking aspirin but you’re concerned about the increased risk of internal bleeding, seek your doctor’s help.
In summary, those who are 60 or older and thinking about starting aspirin for cardiovascular disease prevention should hold off on their decision and consult a doctor before they do so. This is due to an increased risk of internal hemorrhages associated with the daily use of aspirin.
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