• Is taking a daily aspirin really necessary?

several aspirin tablets spilled on a white surface - pain medicineIf you're over 70 and don't have a heart attack or stroke history, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says baby aspirin isn't necessary for good health.

"This study showed that giving aspirin to all patients to try to reduce heart attack was not beneficial," says Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist who was not involved with the study. "This is not surprising, since it included a population generally at low risk for heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years." The study included more than 19,000 people over 65 in Australia and the U.S.

"Since aspirin increases bleeding risk, it should also be avoided by people who have a history of bleeding," adds Dr. Kopecky.

However, there is still evidence a daily low-dose aspirin can reduce the risk of recurrence for someone who has already had a stroke or heart attack.

"The current U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines suggest aspirin for higher-risk people, those who have a risk of 10 percent or greater over the next 10 years for a fatal or nonfatal heart attack or stroke," says Dr. Kopecky. He says the risk factor can be determined by using an American College of Cardiology tool that estimates the risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

“As always, it is important to revisit and discuss these decisions with your health care provider," says Dr. Kopecky. "She or he can help provide the information needed, like cholesterol levels ... and help interpret your risk score and help you make a plan to lower it, which is primarily a change in lifestyle.”

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