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Older adults shouldn’t start daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks, experts say

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Oct. 12 (UPI) — People age 60 and older should not start taking aspirin daily to prevent heart attacks and strokes because of an increased risk for internal bleeding, according to new draft recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released Tuesday.

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“Daily aspirin use may help prevent heart attacks and strokes in some people, but it can also cause potentially serious harms, such as internal bleeding,” task force member Dr. John Wong said in a press release.

“It’s important that people who are 40 to 59 years old and don’t have a history of heart disease have a conversation with their clinician to decide together if starting to take aspirin is right for them,” said Wong, chief of clinical decision making at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that makes recommendations about disease screening, counseling services and preventive medication.

Heart disease and stroke are among the leading causes of death in the United States, accounting for about one-third, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Smoking and being overweight or obese can increase a person’s risk for heart disease.

While daily aspirin use has been shown to lower a person’s risk for having a first heart attack or stroke, it also can cause bleeding in the stomach, intestines and brain, recent studies suggest.

The chance of bleeding increases with age and can be life-threatening, the task force researchers said.

About half of older adults in the United States use daily aspirin therapy, despite research indicating that the over-the-counter drug only lowers the heart disease risk for some users.

Based on new research evidence, the task force revised its 2016 recommendations on aspirin use to suggest that once people turn 60, they should not consider starting to take aspirin because the risk of bleeding cancels out the benefits of preventing heart disease.

This recommendation only applies to people who are at higher risk for heart disease, have no history of heart disease and are not already taking daily aspirin, according to the task force.

Those currently taking aspirin should talk to their doctor about their individual circumstances, the task force report said.

In general, the decision to start taking aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke should be based on age, heart disease risk and bleeding risk, it said.

The latest data also shows a closer balance of benefits and risks with daily aspirin use than previously thought for people in their 50s, the task force said.

In addition, starting aspirin use as young as age 40 may have some benefit, it said.

The draft recommendations have been posted for public comment on the task force website.

“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,” task force member Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng said in a press release.

“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,” said Tseng, a professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Hawaii.

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