Older people should take a daily dose of the “wonder drug” aspirin to help prevent heart attacks, strokes and bowel cancer, according to top doctors.
Researchers say the benefits of the over-the-counter pill outweigh the risks of serious harm, particularly risk of bleeding in the stomach and intestines.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that people who are aged 50 to 69 and have increased risk of heart disease, and who are not at increased risk for bleeding, should consider taking aspirin daily.
They also recommends daily aspirin use for the primary prevention of cardiovascualr disease (CVD) and colorectal cancer in adults aged 50 to 59 who have a 10 per cent or greater 10-year CVD risk, are not at increased risk for bleeding, and who have a life expectancy of at least 10 years.
But they say a daily aspirin dose for the primary prevention of CVD and colorectal cancer in adults aged 60 to 69, who have a 10 per cent or greater 10-year CVD risk should be an individual one with his or her doctor.
Those who are not at increased risk for bleeding, have a life expectancy of at least 10 years, and are willing to take low-dose aspirin daily for at least 10 years are more likely to benefit. This is a third recommendation.
CVD and bowel, or colorectal, cancer are major causes of death for adults in the western world. In 2011, over half of all deaths in the US were caused by heart disease, cancer or stroke.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women and a leading cause of cancer death.
While taking low-dose aspirin daily can help prevent heart attacks, stroke and cancer, it also increases the risk of serious harms, particularly risk of bleeding in the stomach and intestines, and strokes caused by bleeding in the brain.
The Task Force looked at the combined benefits and harms of taking aspirin for the primary prevention of both cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in this recommendation.
The scientists say more research is needed to assess whether taking aspirin is beneficial
for people who are younger than 50, or older than 70..
The Task Force concluded that the benefits of regular aspirin use for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and colorectal cancer can outweigh the bleeding risks for some patients, including those with higher risk for CVD.
The recommendations were published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.