Aspirin a day ‘risky in old age’ finds major study

Leslie Hanson
September 20, 2018

It is used for a variety of ailments ranging from one-off pain relief from a headache to the prevention of blood clots in those at risk of heart attack and stroke.

If healthy older people take a low dose of aspirin daily, it may not lead to a longer healthy life free of dementia and persistent physical disability, according to a new study.

The researchers studied over 19,000 people over the age group of 65 and 70 who were asked to take aspirin or placebo over a period of four and half years.

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

Professor McNeil did warn, however, that the results do not apply to people with existing conditions, including a previous heart attack, angina or stroke, for which aspirin can be recommended to prevent further problems.

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.

In line with known side-effects of the drug, those in the aspirin group experienced more internal bleeding, with 3.8% of those on the drug having serious medical conditions ranging from stroke to gastrointestinal bleeds, compared with 2.7% in the placebo group.

The study of 19,000 elderly people in Australia and the United States looked at whether millions of over 70s around the world who take 100mg low-dose aspirin to preserve good health are deriving any benefit by doing so.

"People aged over 45 with no known coronary heart disease will benefit most from a healthy lifestyle and seeing their doctor for risk assessments such as blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels", a spokesperson for the Heart Foundation said. The participants did not have cardiovascular disease, dementia or a physical disability.


President-elect of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Dr Harry Nespolon, who was not involved in the study, said some older patients might be taking aspirin because they think it's a good idea. After nearly five years, the researchers did not perceive a contrast between two groups as far as disability-free survival was concerned. People in the study were followed for an average of 4.7 years.

Surprisingly, those who took daily aspirin also appeared to be more likely to die overall, apparently from an increased risk of succumbing to cancer. "The authors rightly suggest treating the unexpected effects with caution, but they also show that benefits of aspirin in healthy people are at best limited, and may well be harmful, and this harm may be increased beyond age 73".

When the researchers looked at death, disability and dementia, they found virtually no difference between the aspirin-taking group and the group given a placebo: 21.5 events per 1000 person-years in the former and 21.2 per 1000 person-years in the latter.

Aspirin intake is associated with increased bleeding tendencies.

More troubling was the fact that people taking daily aspirin suffered clinically significant bleeding.

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

"Many people are taking aspirin for important medical reasons", McNeil said.

The study found the higher death rate in the aspirin-treated group was due primarily to a higher rate of cancer deaths.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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