doctors welcomed recent federal health guidelines on daily use
of low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
advice — which spells out by age and risk who is likely to
benefit from taking an 81 milligram-pill a day — is clear
and helpful, many doctors say.
had a lot of patients who decided for whatever reason on their
own to start taking aspirin," said Dr. Rae Ann Williams,
who specializes in internal medicine at HealthPartners’ Como
Clinic in St. Paul. "This recommendation really helps us
tailor that recommendation and have a much better conversation
with patients about whether or not they are at high risk, and
help guide them in their decision-making."
studies have shown that taking a low-dose aspirin a day can
prevent a heart attack or stroke, leading causes of death and
disability in the United States.
some people, the risks associated with following a daily
aspirin regimen — including stomach bleeding and allergic
reactions to aspirin — may outweigh the benefits.
can you tell if you are a good candidate for daily aspirin
what the new guidelines, developed by the U.S. Preventive
Services Task Force, advise:
daily low-dose aspirin is recommended for those adults 50-59
whose life expectancy is at least a decade and who have a 10
percent or higher chance of a heart attack or other
cardiovascular event. They also must have only an average risk
for stomach bleeding.
Adults 60-69 with a similar risk profile are advised to
consult their doctor about possible daily aspirin use.
Taking an aspirin daily was not recommended for adults younger
than 50 or older than 69.
guidelines are precise, said Dr. Alan Hirsch, a cardiologist
and University of Minnesota professor who is helping spearhead
a statewide public health campaign called "Ask About
is somewhat clearer and more data-driven than the previous
ones," he said referring to earlier recommendations.
"This guideline creates a simple middle-age [50-59] range
for which the green light and red light are clear."
reinforces a central message of the campaign: Know your risk
and talk to your doctor.
campaign’s goal over the next five years is to support the
state’s heart disease and stroke prevention plan by making
sure federal recommendations on aspirin are easy to use, for
patients and doctors alike.
like immunization for kids and air bags, it’s easy to get
lost in complexities of recommendations," Hirsch said.
"Prevention needs to be made easy."
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end, the campaign includes an interactive website (askaboutaspirin.umn.edu)
with a self-assessment tool that allows people to find out
what their risks are and answer questions to help determine
whether aspirin is something they should consider taking
for those who are older or younger than the group highlighted
in the new guidelines, questions linger.
Weld, 82, said he wasn’t sure whether he should keep taking
his daily aspirin pill after he heard about the latest advice
from the federal task force. "It wasn’t clear for my
age group," he said.
started taking aspirin after he’d had a heart stent put in
and his health providers recommended it, he said. The new
recommendations are for people who haven’t had previous
heart issues, Williams said.
pointed out that the guidelines don’t say NOT to take a
daily baby aspirin if you’re younger than 50 or older than
60. They simply state that there isn’t enough data to
support a recommendation for people outside the 50-59 age
it doesn’t really tell you what to do below 50 or after 59,
I do fear it creates confusion," he said. "So my
worry is that this guideline doesn’t accurately say what
every Minnesota primary physician and cardiologist knows,
which is it really is a continuum of risk by age and risk
echoed that concern. She predicted there will be plenty of
patients over 70 wondering what they should do.
authorities are] not saying one way or another, but it does
leave a little bit of a question there," she said.
just means that doctors like her will have to make a point of
talking to their patients about their aspirin questions,
weighing the overall risks against benefits, before deciding
what to do.
best thing about this is it gives us much more clear
recommendations that we can give to our patients to have an
intentional conversation about whether daily aspirin is right
for them," she said.