Healthy seniors taking baby Aspirin may be doing more harm than good

Grant Boone
September 17, 2018

Australian-American research has found the medication won't help you live longer or prevent your first heart attack, but it will increase the risk of bleeding in older people.

The test subjects, a lot of them from Australia, were older than 70, except for blacks and Hispanics in the United States, who were recruited at age 65 or older because people in those groups have a higher risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems than whites.

"These findings will help inform prescribing doctors who have always been uncertain about whether to recommend aspirin to healthy patients who do not have a clear medical reason for doing so", John McNeil, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Australia, said in a statement.

It had previously been thought by many that a low daily dose of the blood-thinning medicine benefits older people. Other research has demonstrated that people with a history of heart attack or stroke do benefit from taking a daily aspirin because of aspirin's anti-clotting effects.

"After a median of 4.7 years of follow-up, the rate of cardiovascular disease was 10.7 events per 1000 person-years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person-years in the placebo group (hazard ratio, 0.95; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.83 to 1.08)", the authors write in one of the ASPREE study papers, that focused on the effect on cardiovascular events and bleeding. The study began in 2010.

The study concluded that taking aspirin without a health condition is quite ineffectual in preserving health.

Experts last night urged people to take medical advice from their before deciding whether or not to use aspirin regularly.

"100 percent. So clearly, during chest pain, take an aspirin", Agus said. It also showed a higher rate of suffering from a major hemorrhage. "We knew there would an increased risk of bleeding", a study co-author tells NBC News (aspirin is a blood thinner).

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But the odds of a major bleeding episode were 38 per cent higher with aspirin.

Dr Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Ageing said: "Clinical guidelines note the benefits of aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes in persons with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease". The trial found 90.3 percent of the people who took aspirin remained alive with no persistent physical disability or dementia, compared with 90.5 percent of people on the placebo.

The cancer finding surprised researchers because in other studies, aspirin protected against death from cancer.

"ASPREE is a study that was probably long overdue", he said.

Half the people who died in the trial had some type of cancer. Problems like stroke and intestinal bleeding occurred in 8.6 per cent of aspirin patients versus 6.2 per cent of placebo patients.

Three recent studies discovered that daily use of aspirin is unnecessary for older adults who are healthy - but the finding does not apply to people who already have an existing condition.

Yes. And no. If you are confused as to what the latest research means for you and your family, rest assured that you are far from alone.

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