Can Aspirin Reduce Risks for Heart Disease and Cancer?

A pill a day may in fact keep your doctor away. The U.S. Preventative Task Force recently published new guidelines on how to help prevent heart disease and colorectal cancer for some people in their 50s and 60s. 

Specifically, the task force recommends 81 milligrams of Aspirin a day for adults ages 50 to 70 years old who have not been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease but whose 10 year risk for these events outweighs their risk for bleeding. Additionally, these patients must be willing to always take their daily Aspirin. The risks of reducing GI cancer in both men and women can be up to 30-40%.

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Why is this important? 

These guidelines had not been updated in nearly a decade and there has been controversy about how much Aspirin is actually beneficial. The new recommendations specifically show how daily Aspirin can prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer, two highly prevalent and potentially life threatening illnesses. 

How does Aspirin work?

At 81 mg, Aspirin is classified as an antiplatelet, a drug that prevents the clotting of platelets which in turn stops accumulation. If there is less accumulation within the vessels, there is less risk of buildup. In the past I’ve compared the clotting cascade to a simple accident on the LIE, which eventually leads to further buildup as ambulances and helpers jump in to help clean the initial insult: that analogy applies here as a daily aspirin can help prevent that first injury. 

What is a potential harm in taking Aspirin? 

There is sufficient evidence based medicine that shows Aspirin use in adults can increase the risk for GI bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke. These risks are smaller in adults younger than 59 years old and unclear in adults older than 70 years old. For those under 50 years old and older than 70 years old, the recent guidelines are a bit tenuous. Patients should speak with their PCP or cardiologist for more specific recommendations. 

Bottom line: taking 81 mg of Aspirin daily may be beneficial in preventing future heart attack and strokes if you’re between the ages of 50 and 70. But always speak to your doctor before doing so.

dr. uruj kamal

dr. uruj kamal

Dr. Uruj Kamal is Chief Resident of Adult Outpatient Psychiatry at Baystate Medical Center-University of Massachusetts Medical School. A Stony Brook native, she enjoys combining her knowledge of mental health with healthy living. Dr. Kamal has a special interest in outpatient adult psychiatry.