Task Force Recommends Using Aspirin to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease When Benefits Outweigh the Harms

Patients and clinicians should consider risk factors—including age, gender, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking and risk of gastrointestinal bleeding—before deciding whether to use aspirin to prevent heart attacks or strokes, according to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The recommendations were published in the March 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The Task Force found good evidence that aspirin decreases first heart attacks in men and first strokes in women. The more risk factors people have, the more likely they are to benefit from aspirin. The Task Force recommends that men between the ages of 45 and 79 should use aspirin to reduce their risk of having a heart attack when the benefits outweigh the harms for potential gastrointestinal bleeding. Women between the ages of 55 and 79 should use aspirin to reduce their risk of having an ischemic stroke when the benefits outweigh the harms for potential gastrointestinal bleeding. Because heart attacks are less likely to occur in men younger than 45 and ischemic strokes are less likely to occur in women younger than 55, and because limited evidence exists in these age groups, the Task Force recommended against using aspirin to prevent either strokes or heart disease in men under 45 or women under 55. The Task Force could not find clear evidence that the benefits of using aspirin outweigh the risks in people 80 years or older.
http://www.ahrq.gov/news/press/pr2009/aspcvdpr.htm