Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel and interim president.
I’ve heard it said you should take an aspirin or baby aspirin a day to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. But I read that this advice has changed?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
Doctors have commonly recommended that, beginning in their 50s, people take a low dose of aspirin daily to protect heart health. In recent years, that recommendation has expanded to include protection against colon cancer.
But earlier this month, an independent task force of experts recommended curbing this practice. Their recommendations, which are still in draft form, were nuanced. So, please read on before you consider stopping or starting this practice.
If you are already taking daily aspirin, talk to your doctor before altering your routine. Many people now taking aspirin may be counseled to keep taking it, particularly those who’ve already had a heart attack or other cardiovascular event.
Conversely, if you’re not currently taking daily aspirin, don’t start without consulting your physician. This holds true whether you have a history of heart disease or not.
If you’re 60 or older, it’s unlikely your doctor will recommend the practice unless you’ve already experienced a cardiac event. The new guidelines make clear that those 60 and older shouldn’t start taking aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke.
As far as colon cancer is concerned, the panel determined that the evidence is insufficient to support a definitive recommendation. So, as with heart disease, talk to your doctor before starting or stopping a daily aspirin routine for colon cancer prevention.
Any time medical advice changes, it can be confusing and frustrating. Still, we’re always learning, and this latest guidance – based on a review of 13 clinical trials involving more than 160,000 adults – offers the most complete picture to date.
That picture could change in the future. But unless and until it does, we’re all best served to learn from it.
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!