Low dose aspirin risks overwhelm benefits in healthy elderly

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says healthy people who take low-dose aspirin every day receive no health benefit

A new study confirms aspirin does not help prevent a first heart attack in older adults or prolong your lifespan.

In spite of the above results, researchers still say that if you are a healthy, elderly person and you have been taking aspirin daily, you shouldn't necessarily stop.

A team of researchers from Monash University in Melbourne published their findings from a seven-year study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, on Sunday.

"[The study] has provided this answer".

"For healthy people, 70 and older, who don't have a reason to be on aspirin, such as a previous heart attack or stroke, there was no discernible benefit", Murray told NBC News.

The study, involving 19,114 older people - 16,703 in Australia and 2,411 in the United States - began in 2010 and enrolled participants aged 70 and older.

Hadley noted only 11 percent of participants had regularly taken low-dose aspirin before entering the study.

After almost five years, the researchers did not observe a difference between the two groups when it came to "disability-free survival".

In the UK, GPs generally do not advise aspirin for pensioners who have not previously suffered cardiovascular problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. 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.

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The doctors unexpectedly found that those who took aspirin were slightly more likely to have died over the course of the trial (5.9%) than those who took the placebo (5.2%).

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

"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.

In the second study, researchers were able to confirm these results, noting "the risk of major hemorrhage was significantly higher with aspirin than with a placebo".

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

Some completely healthy people also choose to take aspirin to reduce their risk and there is continuing research into whether the drug can be used to cut the risk of cancer.

Doctor Leslie Ford, associate director for clinical research, at the National Cancer Institute in the United States, said: 'The increase in cancer deaths in study participants in the aspirin group was surprising, given prior studies suggesting aspirin use improved cancer outcomes.

As the authors themselves point out, the study doesn't "directly address the question of whether healthy older persons who have been using aspirin for primary prevention should continue or discontinue its use".

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