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Aspirin Guidelines Updated by U.S. Preventive Services

Task force recommends weighing heart risk factors against risk of gastrointestinal bleeding

FRIDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Before deciding whether to use aspirin to prevent heart attacks or strokes, clinicians should compare risk factors such as age, gender, diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and smoking against the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, according to a report published in the March 17 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reviewed literature published since 2002, including a recent meta-analysis of the risks and benefits of aspirin, and found aspirin may have different benefits and harms in men and women.

Among their recommendations: Men aged 45 to 79 should be encouraged to use aspirin when the potential benefit of a reduction in heart attacks outweighs the potential harm of an increase in gastrointestinal bleeding and that women aged 55 to 79 should use aspirin when the potential benefit of a reduction in ischemic strokes outweighs the potential harm of an increase in gastrointestinal bleeding. The Task Force concluded that there isn't enough evidence to assess the balance of benefits and risks of aspirin for cardiovascular disease prevention in men and women ages 80 and older, and that the evidence discourages the use of aspirin in women younger than 55.

"The decision about whether the benefits of taking aspirin outweigh the harms is an individual one," Task Force Chair Ned Calonge, M.D., said in a statement. "Patients should work with their clinicians to look at their risk factors and decide if taking aspirin to lower their risk for heart attacks or strokes outweighs the potential risk of gastrointestinal bleeding."

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