The middle-aged should take an aspirin daily to help to prevent heart attacks, research suggested.
A study of almost 12,000 patients found that one in 10 men from the age of 48 and one in 10 women ages 58 and over were at risk from heart attack, suggesting that everyone in these age groups would benefit from the drug.
Under existing recommendations, a family health care provider will prescribe aspirin if a person has already suffered a heart attack or a stroke. Aspirin is also prescribed if factors such as high blood pressure put a patient at high risk of having a heart attack in the next few years.
Researchers from Nottingham and Sheffield universities said that, in reality, many people are not prescribed aspirin.
The study, published in the journal Heart, looked at patients between the ages of 30 and 75. The researchers found that, from the age of 47 in men and 57 in women, the 10-year coronary heart disease risk is 10 percent - a risk worth treating, they said.
At that point, unless someone is at risk of dangerous side effects because they have a condition such as a stomach ulcer, the benefits of taking aspirin outweigh the disadvantages, they concluded.
Heart attacks occur when a blood vessel is blocked by a clot, but aspirin makes it harder for blood clots to form. Some have speculated it may be easier to treat everyone over a specific age threshold such as 50 years.
Iskandar Idris, an honorary senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, who led the study, said that routinely prescribing aspirin in these age groups was a feasible option.
“The final decision about use of aspirin must eventually be made after discussion with a health care provider,” he added.
The recommendations may not apply to people with diabetes or those at high risk of bleeding. Although diabetics are likely to benefit from aspirin treatment because of their high risk of heart disease, the evidence is not yet quite clear, Idris said.