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Over 60? Don't Start Taking Aspirin Every Day, U.S. Panel Announces

The side effects may be too great.

Experts have long said that low doses of aspirin can help prevent heart disease, as the drug prevents blood clots from forming. Now, experts are beginning to walk back on those claims, warning those who are 60 and older to not participate in the daily regimen.

Why was aspirin ever recommended as a means for heart disease prevention in the first place?

The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This type of heart disease occurs when the arteries in the heart become narrow or blocked from plaque buildup, inhibiting blood vessels to transport oxygen-rich blood.

When plaque buildup ruptures in your arteries, blood clots can form as your body tries to control the damage. Since plaque already causes your arteries to become narrow, a clot can block a blood vessel entirely, which stops blood from flowing to the brain and heart. This is how stroke and a heart attack occurs, respectively.

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According to the Cleveland Clinic, blood clots become more common as people age. Those at the age of 65 and over are the most susceptible to blood clot formation. Since aspirin is known for its blood-thinning capabilities, doctors have prescribed low-dose aspirin to those at risk of heart disease.

What are experts saying now?

The New Times reported on Tuesday that new draft guidelines from a panel of experts at the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggest that doctors should no longer make this recommendation—especially to those who are 60 and over. This warning is based on "mounting evidence" that the risk of experiencing serious side effects from aspirin outweighs that one benefit.

The experts encourage that those who are younger than 60 and are at high risk of heart disease but personally don't have a history with the disease, should speak with their physician about whether it's necessary for them to take the drug. They also recommend that those who are 60 and older don't start a daily dose of aspirin to avoid the potential risk of bleeding in the brain, stomach, and intestines.

"There's no longer a blanket statement that everybody who's at increased risk for heart disease, even though they never had a heart attack, should be on aspirin," Dr. Chien-Wen Tseng, a member of the national task force who is the research director of family medicine and community health at the University of Hawaii, was quoted by The Times. "We need to be smarter at matching primary prevention to the people who will benefit the most and have the least risk of harm."

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (AHA) were the first two organizations to address this issue, releasing guidelines in 2019 that stated a low-dose aspirin was no longer recommended as a preventative measure for older adults who don't have existing heart disease or aren't at high risk.

These new guidelines are not yet final, however, they could affect millions of Americans who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

For more, be sure to check out These Eating Habits Are Wrecking Your Heart Health, Cardiologist Says. Then, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter!

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the former news editor of Eat This, Not That! Read more about Cheyenne