'Aspirin-a-day risky in old age' - major study

Faith Castro
September 19, 2018

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. There is good evidence that taking aspirin can help people with known cardiovascular problems, but doctors were unclear if healthier-people benefited. As the blood vessel walls weaken, the risk of bleeding due to aspirin intake rises, he said. The results were published in three papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Participants took either aspirin or a placebo daily over a four-and-a-half year period.

The ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial of more than 19,000 participants in Australia and the United States is the largest and most comprehensive study to look at whether the many millions of older people around the world who take (100mg) low dose aspirin to preserve good health are deriving any benefit by doing so.

As a result of the third study, researchers concluded that there was a higher cause of death in the aspirin test group, in those who were believed to be healthy, than in the placebo test group.

There was also a small increase in the number of cancer deaths in the aspirin-treated group, the New York Times reports.

Elderly people who have never had a heart attack in their life can avoid taking a baby aspirin every day, as per a US Australian study of more than 19,000 volunteers. ASPREE has provided this answer.

Other studies have long shown that aspirin use can help prevent heart attacks and stroke in people who already have heart disease.

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The team of scientists was led by John J. McNeil, M.B.B.S., head of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Health at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, and Anne M. Murray, M.D., director of the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis. "If you look at the new findings, at best it's neutral and at worst it increases the bleeding risk". "They may have been taking it for five to 10 years.so they should really go back and talk to their GP before they stop taking it". In addition, most did not take aspirin regularly before entering the study.

"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".

Among the people randomly assigned to take aspirin, 90.3 per cent remained alive at the end of the treatment without persistent physical disability or dementia, compared with 90.5 per cent of those taking a placebo.

However, the cases of major bleeding were 38 per cent more with aspirin.

"There was more bleeding, particularly from the stomach and upper gastrointestinal tract", Prof McNeil told AAP. Since the 1960s it has been known that aspirin lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke among those who have had heart disease or stroke before.

Aspirin has been widely used in healthy older adults to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Researchers also found the use of low-dose aspirin did not substantially lower the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy older adults, and instead significantly increased their risk of major haemorrhage (bleeding that can lead to a stroke).

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