A Daily Dose of Aspirin May Be Dangerous for Healthy Seniors

A daily aspirin will not lower the risk of death or heart attacks in healthy older people but will increase the risk of internal bleeding a major study found

No detectable benefit seen from regular use of low-dose aspirin for people 70 and older who don't have heart disease, researchers say.For decades, a daily dose of aspirin has been widely considered a way to protect healthy people from cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

The ASPREE (ASpirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial involved 19,000 participants from Australia and the United States, making it the largest and most comprehensive study to look at whether there are any health benefits to taking 100 milligrams of aspirin a day for older people.

There's a common belief a low dose of aspirin a day helps seniors live longer, but a new study has found it does nothing of the sort.

"Cancer-related death occurred in 3.1% of the participants in the aspirin group and in 2.3% of those in the placebo group (hazard ratio, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.10 to 1.56)".

Indeed, the second study details that "the risk of major hemorrhage was significantly higher with aspirin than with a placebo".

Scientists looked at almost 20,000 healthy Australians and Americans aged over 70, and found taking low doses of aspirin for five years had no benefits - and it actually caused some harm.

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Continuing follow-up of the ASPREE participants is crucial, said Dr. Evan Hadley, director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology.

The study found it could actually increase the risk of internal bleeding.

The study involved 19,000 people aged over 70 and has been in practice for seven years.

However, most research on the benefits of aspirin is performed on people in middle age and there is mounting evidence the dangers increase as we get older.

"But here, this study has been looking at primary, so in terms of people previously well, and the evidence has come in and clearly shown that there is no benefit, and in fact, it can create secondary other issues which are obviously of concern".

He was keen to participate in the aspirin study when his GP asked him to take part.

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In the total study population, treatment with 100 mg of low-dose aspirin per day did not affect survival free of dementia or disability.

"The surprising findings here are the small increase in overall mortality, mainly through cancer including bowel cancer".

After almost five years, the researchers did not observe a difference between the two groups when it came to "disability-free survival". In the final 12 months of the trial, 62.1 percent of the participants in the aspirin group and 64.1 percent of those in the placebo group reported that they were still taking their assigned dosage.

Professor McNeil said, "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". (A typical "low dose" aspirin contains 81 milligrams of the drug). However, more research was needed to investigate its use more thoroughly.

"I think it is time we started to phase out the use of aspirin broadly for the purposes of prevention in individuals who have not had a heart attack or stroke", said Michos, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

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