New guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force state that daily low doses of aspirin-75 milligrams to 81 milligrams-are as effective as higher doses (100+ milligrams) in preventing heart attacks among men and strokes among women.
The task force’s conclusions seem to draw to a close a years-long controversy over whether aspirin is an effective and beneficial preventive. It found that the daily low-dose routine is especially helpful for preventing heart attack in men aged 45 to 79 and for preventing stroke in women aged 55 to 79, providing that the risk of experiencing either event outweighs the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding.
The task force did accompany its conclusions with some caveats, though, including advising which age groups among men and women are most likely to receive a benefit from daily aspirin and warning that such consumption still carries a risk of inducing gastrointestinal bleeding, especially among people taking the clot-dissolving drug Plavix (clopidogrel). Furthermore, men under 45 and women under 55 who have never had a heart attack or stroke should not take prophylactic aspirin. The task force said that it is unclear whether people 80 or older should take aspirin to help prevent cardiovascular events.
More than one-third of all American adults are believed to take a daily dose of aspirin. The drug, originally derived from salicin, a compound found in the bark of willow trees, was first administered to patients by doctors in 1899 and then began selling across the counter without a prescription in 1915.