Aspirin should not be recommended to most adults for heart attack prevention: panel

An influential U.S. panel of experts changed its recommendations for people who take low dosages of aspirin in order to prevent first heart attacks or strokes. 

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force in a draft proposal released Tuesday recommended that adults ages 40 to 59 should only be taking low dosages of the blood thinner if their physician determines that they are at high risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Aspirin acts as an anticoagulant, which means it aids in preventing blood clots from forming, which is how heart attacks and strokes typically develop. Taking daily doses of aspirin was thought to lower the risk of these clots, and therefore lower the risk of heart disease and stokes. 

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In addition, the new guidance detailed in the draft recommends that people over the age of 60 not take aspirin to prevent first heart attacks or strokes. 

Previously, guidance had recommended a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin for people over the age of 50 who were at higher risk for heart attacks or strokes in the next decade, as long as they were not at a higher risk of bleeding. 

This move marks the first time that a U.S. health task force has recommended that adults in their 40s speak with their doctors about aspirin for heart health.

This draft recommendation does not apply to people who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke. The task force still recommends that those people take aspirin preventatively. 

"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," Tseng said in a statement. "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."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to recent data, 29 million adults in the U.S. take aspirin daily to prevent heart disease despite not having a family history of it. 

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According to the panel, the blood thinner can increase a person's risk of internal bleeding. 

“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,” John Wong, a member of the task force said. 

The draft recommendation was posted for public input, which can be submitted from now until Nov. 8.