Heart attack: Over 60s warned not to take common painkiller – ‘potentially serious’ risk

What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

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A heart attack is a serious medical emergency that calls for immediate help. During a heart attack, the supply of blood flowing to the organ gets suddenly blocked. People at risk are commonly advised to take statins or aspirin to lower the likelihood of getting one. But new research finds that once people turn 60 they should drop taking the popular painkiller as prevention.

Like all medications, aspirin has possible side effects. One of them is bleeding more easily than normal as the medication thins your blood.

This can include anything from cuts taking longer to stop bleeding and nose bleeds to internal bleeding in some cases.

The US Preventive Services Task Force reports that the risk of internal bleeding is higher for people over 60 and cancels out the benefits of regularly taking this pill to prevent heart diseases.

Although the health body admits there is a benefit of aspirin preventing heart attacks and strokes for those in their 40s, they warn against a “closer balance of benefits and harms” for those in their 60s.

“Daily aspirin use may help prevent heart attacks and strokes in some people, but it can also cause potentially serious harms, such as internal bleeding,” said member of the task force doctor John Wong.

He added: “The latest evidence is clear: starting a daily aspirin regimen in people who are 60 or older to prevent a first heart attack or stroke is not recommended.”

However, for younger people taking aspirin could still be an option.

“It’s important that people who are 40 to 59 years old and don’t have a history of heart disease have a conversation with their clinician to decide together if starting to take aspirin is right for them,” said doctor Wong.

You might have been recommended to take a low dose of aspirin on a daily basis, if you experienced a stroke or a heart attack, in order to stop you from having another one.

Another reason for taking aspirin as prevention is when you’re at high risk of heart attack due to heart disease, for example.

You should only take a daily dose of aspirin if your doctor recommends it.

If you are over 60 and worried about taking aspirin, talk to your doctor about other options.

What other options are there to prevent a heart attack?

If your risk is not very high, implementing lifestyle changes into your routine could be sufficient.

These are the three main things that NHS lists to prevent a heart attack:

  • Healthy, balanced diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Keeping blood pressure at a healthy level.

To keep your blood pressure levels at bay, following a healthy diet, lowering your alcohol intake and doing regular exercise can often help.

If your risk is higher, you might be prescribed statins that can help lower “bad cholesterol” levels as well as the risk of heart episodes.

Having high levels of “bad cholesterol” can be dangerous, as it can cause your arteries to harden and narrow, leading to other heart diseases.

There are five different types of statin available on prescription in the UK.

If you’re at risk of heart attack, always follow your doctor’s advice about prevention and taking medication.

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