Taking Baby Aspirin Every Day Can Actually Have Serious Health Risks

Prof McNeil cautioned the findings did not apply to those with existing conditions where aspirin is recommended as a preventive measure against further heart attacks, strokes or angina.

However the medicine was linked with an increased risk of serious bleeding, in line with previous findings.

In healthy elderly people who never had a heart attack, the widespread practice of taking a baby, or low dose, aspirin every day may do more harm than good, according to a US-Australian study of more than 19,000 volunteers.

"If you don't need it, don't start it", Dr. John McNeil, lead author of the study and member of the department of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, told The New York Times. Half of those people used daily aspirin and the others did not.

The participants were then followed for an average of 4.7 years. This counted the uptick in upper gastrointestinal bleeding (HR 1.87, 95% CI 1.32-2.66) and intracranial bleeds (HR 1.50, 95% CI 1.11-2.02).

"This study shows why it is so important to conduct this type of research, so that we can gain a fuller picture of aspirin's benefits and risks among healthy older persons".

Details of the trial were published in three papers in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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The aspirin group were also at a slightly increased risk of death.

Other large aspirin studies have suggested that aspirin may prevent cancer over the longer term. The patients who took aspirin didn't report differences in dementia or physical disability compared to the control group.

"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. "Particularly bleeding, which is more common in older people".

While US Preventive Services Task Force guidelines on aspirin use, among other global guidelines, recommend a daily dose to prevent cardiovascular disease between the age of 50 and 69, a lack of available research meant this recommendation was not extended to people older than 70.

And if that weren't enough, the third study also found that aspirin may have "higher all-cause mortality. among apparently healthy older adults who received daily aspirin than among those who received [a] placebo and was attributed primarily to cancer-related death". Numerous extra deaths were due to cancer, but Leslie Ford from the National Cancer Institute in Maryland said that until the team had analysed more data, the cancer findings "should be interpreted with caution".

"These initial findings will help to clarify the role of aspirin in disease prevention for older adults, but much more needs to be learned", Hadley said.

No individual component of the primary endpoint made a case for the benefit of aspirin, which failed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease as well (10.7 versus 11.3 events per 1,000 person-years, HR 0.95, 95% CI 0.83-1.08).

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