If you're between 50 and 70 years old and you're not already taking a low dose of aspirin, it's something you should consider, according to a federal panel. Aspirin is already recommended for people with a history of heart trouble, and the US Preventive Services Task Force now says a daily dose will help prevent people at risk from developing heart problems, as well as help cut their risk of colorectal cancer, reports the New York Times. The panel defined people at risk as those 50 to 69 with more than a 10% risk of a heart attack in the next 10 years, which can be calculated here. Long-term use of aspirin can, however, trigger potentially fatal bleeding in the stomach or the brain, and the nation's health experts are fiercely debating the wisdom of the task force's advice.
The FDA said last year that it doesn't believe evidence supports the use of aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke, the chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic tells the Washington Post. He says it's an "incredible paradox" that two arms of government are giving conflicting advice—and he sides with the FDA. Meanwhile, the chief of cardiology at Georgetown University tells NBC News that he hopes the advice will at least make more people aware of the benefits and risks of aspirin, helping the right people to start taking it and the wrong people, including those at higher risk of bleeding, to stop. (British researchers say that despite the risks, aspirin is one of the three most important ways to reduce cancer deaths.)