Over-60s should not regularly take aspirin to help avoid a heart attack, an influential US health body has said.
The risk of bleeding from taking aspirin cancels out the benefits of preventing heart disease once people turn 60, according to the US Preventive Services Task Force, a panel of independent experts which partners with official government bodies, including the US Food and Drug Administration.
For the first time, the panel said there may be a small benefit for adults in their 40s who have no bleeding risk.
For those in their 50s, there is a “closer balance of benefits and harms” than previously thought, the group said in its draft guidance.
The NHS does not have a blanket policy of prescribing aspirin for reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, doctors do recommend it for some patients at a low dose.
Recent research found that a daily cocktail of aspirin, statins and blood pressure pills cuts the risk of having a stroke by half.
A study by Canadian researchers, using data from more than 18,000 people with an average age of 63, found those who took all four drugs were 47 per cent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die from heart disease over a five-year period.
The US task force said for patients aged 40 to 59 who are at higher risk of heart disease, and do not have a history of it, should discuss their situation with their doctor before taking the drug.
Adults urged to speak to their doctors
“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,” said Dr John Wong, a member of the task force.
“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.”
Dr Chien-Wen Tseng, another member of the task force, said: “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.”
The panel’s latest recommendation is based on new evidence since 2016.
The experts said that the change in advice for over-60s does not apply to those already taking aspirin following a previous heart attack or stroke. These patients should continue to take their medication unless instructed by a doctor.