Given the widespread daily use of aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) cautions against this measure for those over age 60.

“Aspirin use can cause serious harm, and the risk increases with age,” said Dr. John Wong, a USPSTF member and primary care expert at Tufts Medical Center, according to its Oct. 12 website posting. 

He added, “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.”

The warning is particularly aimed at those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, or health conditions that are conducive to heart attacks or stroke, also known as stroke or embolism. 

This independent panel of experts believes that the risks of bleeding for adults aged 60 and older who have not had a heart attack or stroke outweigh the potential benefits of aspirin.

However, there may be a small benefit for adults in their 40s who do not have bleeding risks, he clarified. 

Thus, the USPSTF updates recommendations issued since 2016 that daily aspirin consumption helped prevent a first heart attack and stroke.

On the other hand, it does not change the advice to use low-dose daily aspirin for many patients who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke.

In the meantime, the USPSTF is taking public comments until Nov. 8, via its website, to issue a final decision after analyzing the input received, according to Time. 

In all cases, the working group stresses the importance of consulting a doctor on the issue, so that he or she can determine whether taking aspirin, based on acetylsalicylic acid, is the most appropriate in each case.  

On the other hand, the USPSTF, made up of 16 independent experts in disease prevention appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also stated that the evidence was insufficient to affirm that the use of low-dose aspirin reduces the occurrence of or death from colorectal cancer.

If finalized, the report would undermine the recommendation also issued in 2016, according to which low-dose aspirin may help protect against colorectal cancer.

Among the effects caused by aspirin is that it acts as an analgesic, and as an anticoagulant with the ability to reduce the chances of clot formation. However, it also presents risks, even in low doses, of causing bleeding in the digestive tract or ulcers, which can be life-threatening.

For her part, the internal researcher at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset (New York), Dr. Lauren Block, the recommendation is important because many adults use aspirin even though they have not suffered a heart attack or stroke.

An estimated 600,000 Americans have a first heart attack and an estimated 610,000 have a first stroke.

Also, a 2017 study found that 23% of adults over the age of 40 without cardiovascular disease took aspirin as a preventive measure, of which 23% did so without a physician’s recommendation.

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