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They’ve changed the rules on us again. This time, it’s about the longstanding recommendation of taking an aspirin a day to prevent heart disease. 

It seems that that is the old way of doing things. 

Out with the old, and in with the new…or, so they’re trying to say. 

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), in a draft statement, is updating their official recommendations for taking aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease. The new guidelines suggest that adults 60 and older should not take aspirin for heart disease prevention. The side effects outweigh the potential benefits. Actually, taking aspirin regularly increases the risk for internal bleeding.

Cardiovascular disease is behind one in three deaths and is the #1 cause of death in the United States. According to the USPSTF, around 605,000 Americans have their first heart attack, and 610,000 have their first stroke every year. Age and genetics are some of the greatest, unchangeable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Other avoidable risk factors are smoking, inactivity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar or diabetes, excess weight, and poor diet

The new suggestions from USPSTF significantly limit the use of aspirin as a preventative measure. They no longer recommend that anyone, even those at risk, start taking aspirin for heart disease prevention without a doctor’s specific recommendation. Evidence suggests this has no benefit, according to the USPSTF.

Those in the 40-59 crowd at risk but who don’t have a history of cardiovascular disease should discuss with their doctors whether a low-dose aspirin is a good choice for them. However, evidence suggests there is only a minimal benefit to taking aspirin under these circumstances as a primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Don’t just stop taking anything cold turkey, though!

Dr. Salim Virani of Baylor College of Medicine Professor warned that these changes don’t affect patients who have already had a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, stent, or bypass surgery, or those that their doctor has already instructed to take aspirin as a secondary form of prevention. If you’re confused about what you should be taking for your particular case, he encourages talking to your healthcare provider before stopping or starting any new medications.

If this doesn’t make sense or you have questions, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doc. A conversation is a great place to start in order to understand. These guidelines are still evolving. We’ll let you know if anything (else) changes.