In men, aspirin can prevent heart attacks but seems to have no effect on strokes, says Michael LeFevre, M.D., a member of the task force that wrote the new guidelines and a professor of family medicine at the University of Missouri. Conversely, he says, aspirin appears to help women avoid strokes but not heart attacks.
The new recommendations suggest aspirin will be most beneficial to: men between 45 and 79 who have a high risk for heart attacks; women between 55 and 79 who are at high risk for strokes.
Aspirin, which has been around for more than 100 years, is a cheap, easy, effective way to control pain and inflammation. In 1989, when a major study revealed that a small dose could reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack by preventing blood clots, doctors began recommending that their older patients take a low dose of aspirin, 81 mg, every day.
“Aspirin is a lifesaving medicine in patients with established cardiovascular disease,” says Jeffrey Berger, M.D., a cardiologist at New York University who has studied the use of aspirin. But, he warns, it does come with some real drawbacks.
Aspirin has been linked with chronic ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and earlier this year scientists reported that people who took aspirin regularly were more likely to suffer from hearing loss.