Are you confused about the new guidelines for taking aspirin? A Mayo Clinic expert offers information to help explain them. In mid-September, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new recommendations for taking aspirin. They found "taking aspirin can help 50- to 69-year-olds who are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, prevent heart attacks and stroke, as well as help prevent colorectal cancer, if taken for at least 10 years." Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Stephen Kopecky says those recommendations are a change from previous guidelines that suggest men over age 45 and women over 55 should take a daily dose of aspirin to fight cardiovascular disease. Why the change? It has to do with your risk of bleeding. Kopecky says, "We have to know the risks and benefits of aspirin. The benefit is that it reduces inflammation in our arteries. It reduces the risk of heart attack for men and the risk of stroke for women.

And it helps reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

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The negative is that aspirin can increase your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, and that risk goes up as you age. Kopecky says it's important to talk to your health-care provider about your risk of cardiovascular disease -- which includes things such as family history, cholesterol levels and smoking -- to find out if taking aspirin is right for you.