Doctors say aspirin lowers heart attack risk for many adults

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Nat'l Task Force Issues New Guidelines On Aspirin Use

(Reuters Health) -- Many adults who have never had a heart attack or stroke should take aspirin every day to keep it that way, new U.S. guidelines say.

People in their 50s with risk factors for cardiovascular disease -- including high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a history of smoking -- may benefit from starting a daily aspirin regimen and staying on it for at least a decade, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-backed panel of independent physicians.

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A daily low-dose aspirin may also help protect against colorectal cancer in people who are taking it to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Because aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach and brain, this advice doesn't apply to people with bleeding disorders.

RELATED: How to maintain a healthy diet at the office

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Doctors say aspirin lowers heart attack risk for many adults

Find a work mom or dad. 

Everybody is familiar with the work wife: the woman or man in your office who exists to keep you company, gossip, and tell you when your shirt is see-through. The work mom/dad is like that, but mean. Beauty editor Kathleen Hou suggests finding a person who is willing to both straight-talk and side-eye you when you go to grab even the smallest crumb of coffee cake. Your work mom is tasked with yelling sternly, "DON'T EAT THAT OR YOU'LL REGRET IT." They are brutal but they love you, somewhere inside of their dark hearts.

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Get snacks diverted to another area of the office, far, far away from you. 

When asked how to avoid the inevitable ground zero in the office where all the good snacks get left for free nibbling, one Cut writer explained that at a former job, the snack table was situated close to her desk. How did she handle this constant source of temptation? "I lied and said I'd gotten a request from building management that all snacks had to be kept in the kitchen." You too can become a liar — for your health.

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Locate other dieters and start a shaming Slack/chat channel. 

Right before the start of the New Year, myself and two of my less-attractive colleagues started a private Slack channel dedicated to our commitments to either "getting skinny" or just not eating like total slobs every day. It's a good place to shame your colleagues into eating better. When one member of the channel explained that she'd broken her strict wellness plan by "ordering a milkshake," we both seized the opportunity to boo, heckle, and yell at her until she wimpered. No pain, no gain.

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Don't rely on salad to keep you full. 

Susan Rinkus, the Cut's extremely knowledgeable health writer, advises "eating real meals if you want to avoid the dreaded Magnolia cupcake later," meaning not the pathetic work salad but not Chipotle either. Hearty grains and proteins and lots of leafy greens. But if you're craving that Magnolia cupcake (or thousands of them), don't deny yourself the pleasure. "Go ahead and take a piece of whatever is in the kitchen if you want it and then effing enjoy it," Rinkus told me. "Beating yourself up is no good and food guilt/shame can actually lead to weight gain."

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Exercise. 

You need it. Find a way to be constantly working out at your desk. Twitch incessantly. Tap your toes. Play air drums. Run laps around your cubicle. The more energy you expend, the more calories you can consume. Last I checked, typing is not aerobic exercise but burpees in the office kitchen are.

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Unfollow all snack-based Instagrams. 

Were you salivating at the thought of getting a cake with Drake lyrics on it? Do you often find yourself scrolling mindlessly through SAVEUR's perfectly curated Instagram page? You're not doing yourself any favors, just unfollow them all. Alternately, you can pick up some new follows in the way of health and wellness bloggers, but are you really that hard up for new ways to make your eyes roll out of your head? Stick to the good meme accounts and leave it at that.

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Quit your job. 

You never really liked that job anyway and this diet thing is a real drag.

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Run away to Guadalajara. 

You quit your job and stopped dieting, so now you're going to have a lot of free time. May as well get the hell out of this town of sad dreams and broken promises.

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Never come back. 

You may be in Guadalajara but you never have to worry about nibbling on raw almonds while Cindy goes on about how far she ran this morning ever again. You love it here. You start a new life. One night you wake up in a sweat having dreamed about promising your work mom that you'd never eat Munchkins again. Look around you: You're free. Smile. Life is good. Every day's a cheat day.

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"As with any drug, patients and their doctors must balance the benefits and risks of aspirin," said USPSTF chair Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California, San Francisco.

Adults aged 50 to 59 who have at least a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next decade can benefit the most from taking 81 milligrams of aspirin a day, according to the new guidelines.

The American College of Cardiology provides an online risk calculator here.

The advice doesn't apply to people in their 60s because the bleeding risk increases with age, however, and the jury is still out on whether this approach makes sense for people under 50 or over 70, the Task Force concluded.

"Some people may benefit from aspirin more than others, which is why there are several recommendations based on age," Bibbins-Domino added by email. The Task Force encourages people to talk with their doctor about whether taking aspirin is appropriate, she said.

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. adults over 50 already take aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or avoid a second one, according to a research review published with the new guidelines in Annals of Internal Medicine.

But the Task Force is at odds with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has denied efforts by Bayer HealthCare LLC to market aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes in people with no history of cardiovascular disease.

"All that aspirin does if your heart attack risk is really low is cause you harm," said Dr. Steven Nissen, who served on an FDA advisory panel that recommended against widespread use of aspirin for primary prevention and chairs the department of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

At least one in 10 people taking aspirin don't need it, recent research suggests.

Patients can buy aspirin without a prescription, and doctors are also free to put people on medicines for purposes that aren't approved by the FDA.

The FDA did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Aspirin helps prevent blood cells called platelets from sticking together and forming clots that clog arteries, leading to heart attacks and strokes. The drug carries a bleeding risk because the body also relies on platelet clusters to seal wounds by forming scabs.

Additionally, aspirin might lower the risk of colorectal cancer by acting on a biochemical pathway these tumors need to grow, said Dr. David Weinberg, chair of the department of medicine at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

But patients shouldn't take aspirin for cancer prevention, Weinberg, who isn't on the Task Force, said by email. Instead, they should think of the reduced cancer risk as an added benefit if they already need aspirin to address the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"For those persons already at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, on balance aspirin is a good idea to reduce cardiovascular disease risk alone," Weinberg said. "However, it appears it will also reduce colorectal cancer risk at the same time, which represents a benefit with little or no additional risk if aspirin is already indicated."

SOURCE: Annals of Internal Medicine, online April 11, 2016.

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Doctors say aspirin lowers heart attack risk for many adults

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