New Advice on Aspirin for Heart Health: What You Need to Know

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Each year, over 600,000 Americans have a first heart attack or stroke. Previously, an expert panel called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that some adults take a daily low-dose aspirin to lower their risk of heart disease. But now, that advice is changing. Experts now say the risks of daily aspirin may outweigh the benefits — especially for people over age 60. Here’s what you need to know about aspirin for heart health.

Why Is the Advice on Aspirin Changing?

Aspirin thins your blood, which can lower the risk of blood clots that cause heart attack or stroke. But daily aspirin also has risks, including a higher risk of severe bleeding. And this risk goes up as you get older.

Several large research studies have tried to compare the risks and benefits of taking low-dose aspirin for heart health. Recently, researchers combined the these results and found different risks and benefits for different groups. 

  • For people ages 40 to 50 with no bleeding risks, there may be a small benefit to taking a daily low-dose aspirin.
  • For people ages 50 to 60, the evidence for the benefits of daily aspirin isn’t clear.
  • For people over age 60, the risk of bleeding outweighs the potential benefit of taking a daily low-dose aspirin.

Following the latest evidence, the American Heart Association and several other organizations changed their advice on low-dose aspirin. Now, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is also updating their guidance.

What’s the New Guidance About Aspirin to Prevent Heart Attacks?

In October 2021, the task force released new draft guidance. It says that people ages 60 and older who don’t have a history of heart disease should not start taking daily low-dose aspirin. This is because their risk of bleeding outweighs the benefits.

It also says there may be a small benefit of daily aspirin for some people who: 

  • Are between ages 40 to 59
  • Don’t have a history of heart disease
  • Have risk factors for heart attack or stroke (like high cholesterol or high blood pressure)

But because the benefits for this group don’t clearly outweigh the risks, the task force recommends that people talk with their doctor to decide. And remember, it’s important to always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping any medicine, including aspirin.

What Should I Do If I’m Already Taking a Daily Aspirin?

Many adults are already taking a daily low-dose aspirin. And it’s important to note that these changes don’t apply to people who have already had a heart attack or stroke. So if your doctor has recommended that you take daily aspirin after a heart attack or stroke, keep following your doctor’s instructions.

If you’re taking daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke, don’t panic — and don’t suddenly stop taking it. Instead, talk with your doctor about the new advice and ask them what they recommend. Together, you can discuss the risks and benefits and decide if daily aspirin is still the right choice for you.

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