By Julie A. Jacob
Aspirin is like the Swiss army knife of medications—it can relieve pain, fever and inflammation and can also help prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that adults aged 50 to 59 who are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease (but not prone to bleeding) take a low-dose 81 mg aspirin daily. The task force also noted that:
People at risk for heart attacks and strokes who take a daily aspirin for 10 years or more may also lower their risk of developing colon cancer.
There’s not enough evidence to advise for or against daily aspirin use for people younger than 50 or older than 70; those 60 to 69 should consult with their physician.
Because regular aspirin use can cause health problems, such as stomach bleeding, the American Cancer Society does not recommend taking aspirin solely to reduce cancer risk.
“For some people 50 years and older, the benefits of low-dose aspirin in regard to heart disease, colon cancer and overall mortality can outweigh the risk,” says John Revis, MD, an internist with NorthShore University HealthSystem.
However, Revis cautions, “Patients should first talk to their doctor about what their individual risks and benefits are before starting an aspirin regimen.”