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Can an Aspirin a Day Do More Harm Than Good?

Experts are re-evaluating who should take a daily dose

Some 43 million Americans do it every day: take a tiny aspirin to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. In fact, doctors have been routinely recommending the practice to older adults for years.

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But recently, experts have been questioning the aspirin-a-day regimen, concerned that this everyday miracle drug can pose serious risks, including bleeding in the brain and stomach.

The aspirin-a-day controversy erupted publicly in March when a 10-year study of nearly 30,000 adults ages 50 to 75 without known heart disease found that a daily aspirin didn’t offer any discernible protection.

The group taking aspirin had cardiovascular disease at the same rate as those taking a placebo. Moreover, the study—published in the Journal of the American Medical Association—reported that taking a daily aspirin (100 mg) almost doubled the risk of dangerous internal bleeding.

And last year the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force — a panel of medical experts — issued new guidelines for patients, recommending only those at risk for heart attacks or strokes should take a daily aspirin. Risk factors include having high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, as well as being overweight.

The panel also recommended that people over 80 not take aspirin at all because of bleeding risk.

For the first time, the panel also broke down its advice by gender, recommending against daily aspirin use in women under 55 and men under 45.

So, should you take a daily aspirin or not? The answer is not quite as simple as doctors previously thought. Aspirin, they say, can still be a lifesaving drug, but it’s not for everyone.

Next: How aspirin effectiveness varies by gender. >>

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