An aspirin a day to help prevent stroke and heart disease has been recommended for nearly thirty years. The recommendation is based on ample evidence that aspirin, when taken daily, can prevent adverse heart events and a stroke. However, a new study suggests that this medical dogma may not be applicable to seniors.
The study, conducted in Australia and the US, reveals that aspirin may be causing more harm than good in seniors. In fact, the study suggests that aspirin may cause fatal internal bleeding. The researchers thus recommend that elderly people who are in good health should not take an aspirin a day.
Experts in heart disease and stroke state that these findings are very important and seniors should use great caution against self-medicating themselves with aspirin. In most countries, aspirin is available over the counter. Most general physicians prescribe aspirin to patients after they suffer from a stroke or a heart attack. Aspirin effectively thins the blood and decreases the risk of a repeat attack.
The problem is that while its use may be applicable in people with heart disease and stroke, many healthy people also regularly take aspirin to lower their risk of heart disease. Some people even take aspirin in the belief that it may reduce the risk of cancer.
Until now the majority of research on the benefits of aspirin has been conducted in middle-aged individuals, but now more studies are indicating that the use of aspirin in seniors may not be safe at all. This present study included nearly 19,000 participants in both Australia and the US. The participants were over the age of 70, in reasonably good health, and with no history of heart disease. They were prescribed a daily low dose of aspirin for 5 years.
The study revealed that aspirin did not lower the risk of heart disease or stroke in the study participants; in fact, it was associated with a high number of bleeding problems. Findings of this study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
One of the lead investigators, Prof John McNeil from Monash University stated, “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. These findings will help inform prescribing doctors who have long been uncertain about whether to recommend aspirin to healthy patients.”
Seniors who regularly take aspirin and have no history of heart disease or stroke should discuss the use of aspirin with their family doctor.