Experts recommend changes to low-dose aspirin protocol. What do you need to know?

November 4, 2021 Swedish Health Team

For years, doctors have recommended that people in their 50s take a low-dose aspirin every day to protect them against heart disease and colon cancer. But recently, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), a nationally recognized panel of experts in prevention, evidence-based medicine and primary care, made some recommendations for changing the protocol of low-dose aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.

What should you be concerned about?

Mostly it’s about your age, risk for cardiovascular disease and whether or not you’ve been taking low-dose aspirin—which is sometimes referred to as baby aspirin—already.

Generally speaking, the panel recommends against patients between the ages of 60 and 69 starting a new baby aspirin regimen, citing age-related concerns about an increased risk of bleeding in the brain, stomach and intestines among patients in this group. For these patients, the risks of aspirin can outweigh the benefits.

For people between the ages of 50 and 59 with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the panel recommended a daily low-dose aspirin.

And for those younger than 50 and older than 70, the panel held off on a recommendation, noting that there wasn’t enough evidence to recommend for or against aspirin’s use in preventing cardiovascular disease or colorectal cancer in these groups.

Talk to your doctor

Of course, you should check with your doctor about any of this advice and your own health history. But in its statement, the USPSTF noted that everyone, regardless of age, can reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer by not smoking (or quitting smoking, if you do) and adopting a healthy diet and regular physical activity.  

Jeffrey Westcott, M.D., FACC, who specializes in interventional cardiology and informatics at the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute, says the most important thing to do is consult with your physician before making any change to an established drug protocol.

“This change in recommendations is not meant to affect people who are already on aspirin for primary prevention. The true focus is on those patients who are being considered for low-dose aspirin therapy for primary prevention,” says Dr. Westcott. “It does not mean that it is not reasonable to discuss this with patients who are already on aspirin and want to rediscuss risks versus benefits.”

Find a doctor

Are you concerned about your risk for cardiovascular disease? Contact the Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute at 206-320-4100.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult with a doctor virtually, you have options. Swedish ExpressCare Virtual connects you face-to-face with a practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow-up as needed. If you need to find a physician, caregiver or advanced care practitioner, you can use our provider directory.

Find out the latest updates on how we’re handling COVID-19.

Related resources

Heart disease and stroke prevention starts with knowing the risks

Signs of a stroke and actions you should take

Meditation, mindfulness and music for heart health

Colorectal cancer screenings may save your life

How to prepare for a colonoscopy

After a massive heart attack, ECMO saved Vivek's life


This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.



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