If you’re an older adult, is taking a low-dose of aspirin every day good for you or asking for trouble?
Historically, research has suggested that taking a low-dose aspirin (81 mg) daily helps prevent blood clots in the arteries, possibly preventing heart attacks and strokes. Currently, nearly 40 percent of American adults ages 50 and older take an aspirin each day. However, contradictions by medical experts in recent years have led to confusion on the issue.
New guidelines issued earlier this year (April 2016) by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) offer some clarity on the risks and benefits of taking aspirin daily. In addition, the report details how aspirin may also reduce the chance of contracting colon cancer under certain circumstances. The USPSTF is an independent, volunteer panel of physicians that regularly offers advice on clinical preventive services. It isn’t affiliated with any government agency.
Here’s what the USPSTF said about taking a low-dose aspirin daily:
- Adults in the 50-69 age group can benefit from taking the drug daily to prevent heart attacks and strokes – if the individuals have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease but don’t also have increased risk of bleeding. The determination related to one’s risk of bleeding should be made by your clinician, based on your age, sex, other health conditions, current medications and any previous bleeding problems.
- The task force also found that people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease who take aspirin for at least 10 years also have a reduced likelihood of developing colon cancer. However, they found no direct evidence that people who are at increased risk for colon cancer but not cardiovascular disease would benefit overall from taking aspirin.
- For people younger than age 50 and older than 70, not enough evidence has been compiled for making a recommendation.
The task force stressed that taking a daily low-dose aspirin does carry potential harms. It increases the likelihood of bleeding in the stomach and intestines and of strokes caused by bleeding in the brain. However, these harms were judged “small” in adults ages 50 to 59 and “small to moderate” in adults ages 60 to 69, because the likelihood of bleeding increases as we age.
What’s the bottom line related to low-dose aspirin? Discuss the issue with your SoFHA physician first, then go from there. He or she will guide you in making the correct decision.
To view the final recommendations from the USPSTF, go to Final Recommendation Statement, Aspirin Use to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease and Colorectal Cancer: Preventive Medication.