Aspirin doesn't lower heart attack and stroke risks and can increase bleeding

Many healthy older people self-medicate with a daily dose of aspirin

But a large, new, worldwide study finds that, even at low doses, long-term use of aspirin may be harmful - without providing benefit - for older people who have not already had a heart attack or stroke.

Popping an aspirin pill everyday doesn't help older people to live longer and it may even have the opposite effect, a new study reveals.

In older people, any effect of aspirin on reducing heart disease or stroke might be expected to be enhanced due to their higher underlying risk. "The concern has been uncertainty about whether aspirin is beneficial for otherwise healthy older people without those conditions".

But the new global study followed 19,114 seniors for an average of 4.7 years.

The study also showed an increase in the number of cases of serious bleeding among the aspirin takers (3.8 per cent), compared to the placebo group (2.8 per cent).

McNeil added that a small increase in deaths observed in the aspirin group, primarily from cancer, required further investigation as researchers can not rule out that it may be a chance finding.

Half of the study participants received 100 milligrams of aspirin a day; the other half received a placebo.

"Aspirin is the most widely used of all preventative drugs and an answer to this question is long overdue".

"Clinical guidelines note the benefits of aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes in persons with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease", Richard J. Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, which helped fund the research, said in a news release.

The researchers did not state whether healthy older people who have been taking aspirin should stop.

Another clinical trial has added more evidence against the fairly common practice of prescribing aspirin to healthy older adults in order to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease.

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 the study, a preventive regimen of daily aspirin did not lower the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, but it did significantly increase the risk of bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract or brain - bleeding severe enough to require hospitalization and/or blood transfusions.

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.

McNeil and colleagues noted that adherence to the assigned treatment was 62.1% and 64.1% among aspirin and placebo recipients, respectively, during the final year of trial participation.

For cardiovascular disease, the rate was 10.7 events per 1000 person-years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person-years in the placebo group - also considered no difference.

"Some of them will say, 'if it ain't broke don't fix it, '" predicted Huffman, an associate professor of preventive medicine in the division of cardiology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine.

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