Aged over 70 and healthy? A daily aspirin won't help

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A landmark US-Australian research has found that a low dose of aspirin will not help older adults live longer or prevent their first heart attack, instead will increase the risk of bleeding in older people.

"It means millions of healthy older people around the world who are taking low dose aspirin without a medical reason, may be doing so unnecessarily, because the study showed no overall benefit to offset the risk of bleeding", McNeil added.

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.

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

When the participants were followed up almost five years later, doctors found that compared with the placebo, a daily aspirin had not reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke, or prolonged the number of years people lived without dementia or physical disabilities. Aspirin has been widely used in healthy older adults to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. The new study was created to find out whether low-dose aspirin could prolong healthy, independent living in seniors who had not shown signs of heart disease. He cautioned that the results do not apply to those with existing conditions such as a previous heart attack, angina or stroke, where aspirin is recommended as a valuable preventive drug.

The participants were followed for around 4.7 years and could also not have dementia or a physical disability and had to be free of medical conditions.

The minimum age was 70; 65 in the United States for African-American and Hispanic individuals due to their higher risk for dementia and cardiovascular disease.

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Of those taking the medicine, 5.9% died during the study compared to 5.2% of the placebo group.

Rates of cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease, non-fatal heart attacks and strokes, were similar across both groups, the study found.

But the rate of bleeding was significantly different. The trial found 90.3 percent of the people who took aspirin remained alive with no persistent physical disability or dementia, compared with 90.5 percent of people on the placebo. Hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal hemorrhages or hemorrhages at other sites that required transfusion or hospitalization occurred in 361 people on aspirin and in 265 taking the placebo. "It is possible pre-existing cancers may have interacted with the aspirin".

Cardiologist Dr. Erin Michos called the results, "alarming", saying that aspirin should be prescribed only selectively.

An aspirin a day may not keep the doctor away, new research suggests. Patients now get statins to lower cholesterol and anti-hypertensive medications to lower blood pressure.

"We know that the evidence for the use of aspirin in those patients, who already had heart disease or other circulatory issues, they can actually prevent secondary issues, secondary episodes of either heart attacks or strokes happening in those patients", he said. "In India, self treatment with aspirin is often seen, and it should be strictly forbidden", said Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.