A Daily Dose of Aspirin May Be Dangerous for Healthy Seniors

A Daily Dose of Aspirin May Be Dangerous for Healthy Seniors

Our findings mean millions of healthy people over the age of 70, and their doctors, will now know daily aspirin is not the answer to prolonging good health. And it had been apparent since the 1990s there was a lack of adequate evidence to support the use of low-dose aspirin in healthy older people.

It was called the Aspirin In Reducing Events In The Elderly (ASPREE) trial and the results have been published in three papers in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers at Monash University in Australia recruited almost 20,000 people in that country and the United States, with a median age of 74.

Doctors in Australia and the United States enrolled more than 19,000 healthy people - whites over the age of 70 and blacks and Hispanics aged 65 and older - in the study.

Daily aspirin not only failed to help generally healthy older individuals reduce their risk of disability-free survival and cardiovascular disease in the placebo-controlled ASPREE trial, it also appeared to raise overall mortality and particularly death from cancer.

Hadley noted only 11 percent of participants had regularly taken low-dose aspirin before entering the study. They did, however, document a higher rate of bleeding in the group that received aspirin, compared to the group that received a placebo. Another negative observation was the increased risk of cancer-related death in those who were given aspirin every day.

Elderly people in good health should not take an aspirin a day, according to a major study in the USA and Australia.

Lead author Professor John McNeil says the results are clear: "If you don't need it, don't take it".

The ASPREE trial was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, the Australian National Health and Medical Council, Victorian Cancer Agency and Monash University. What's worse, the studies suggest that having even a low-dose aspirin each day could lead to serious health problems over time. "They may have been taking it for five to 10 they should really go back and talk to their GP before they stop taking it". In the August study and the new one, researchers found a significant risk of internal gastric bleeding caused by the medication, which thins the blood. "But not only did it not decrease risk of disability or death, it did not decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, and there was an increase in the rate of death".

They found that the major haemorrhagic events suffered involved gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines) and intracranial (inside the skull) bleeding. In the new study, most volunteers fell into that category and aspirin didn't seem to help them.

Researchers also looked at whether taking aspirin affected the likelihood of developing dementia, but found little difference between those who took aspirin and those who took a placebo.

And what about people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol who might be taking other medicines to mitigate a higher risk of heart attack or stroke?

But he - and his study co-authors - also stress that anybody already taking aspirin should not quit using it before first consulting with their physician.

Professor McNeil said aspirin remains a relatively safe medication but more research was needed to investigate the longer-term benefits and risks of its daily use.