Daily aspirin 'does not improve health', study finds

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Scientists at Monash University in Australia enrolled 19,114 people aged 65 and older in Australia and the U.S., randomly giving them a daily low-dose aspirin or a placebo.

Aspirin-related compounds have been used for the treatment of pain since the 16th century BC, when it was reported that people chewed on the bark of willow and papyrus.

This protective capacity of aspirin was extrapolated to people who were otherwise healthy to prevent a first heart attack or stroke, despite the evidence supporting this to be sparse.

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.

Over a four-year span starting in 2010, the trial enrolled more than 19,000 people in Australia and the US who were 70 and older, or 65 for African-American and Hispanic participants because their risks of dementia or cardiovascular disease are higher.

Roughly half of participants were given 100 mg of low-dose aspirin, while the rest were given a placebo.

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Millions of healthy people take small doses of aspirin regularly in the belief that the drug will prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Lead researcher Professor John McNeil, of Monash University, Australia, said the study proves many older people may be taking the medicine "unnecessarily".

But the rate of bleeding was significantly higher in the aspirin group: 3.8 per cent vs. 2.8 per cent.

A large clinical trial involving participants in Australia and the U.S. found a daily low-dose aspirin had no effect on prolonging life in healthy, elderly people.

"Taking aspirin if you are otherwise healthy, over the age of 70, if you haven't had a previous heart attack or stroke, is really of very little benefit", he said. The participants did not have cardiovascular disease, dementia or a physical disability.

Researchers are looking to take up a second aspirin study that could shed more light on cardio-vascular disease, dementia, cancer and much more.

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Dr. Margolis said they've only just begun to scratch the surface of what they could learn about the long term effects of aspirin on people over the age of 70. They were followed for an average of 4.7 years to determine outcomes.

But the odds of a major bleeding episode were 38 percent higher with aspirin.

Continuing follow-up of the ASPREE participants is crucial, said Dr. Evan Hadley, director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology. "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".

Many healthyAmericans take a baby aspirin every day to reduce their risk of having a heart attack, getting cancer and even possibly dementia. However, the higher death rate was due to more cancer deaths in the aspirin group, which could have been due to chance, the researchers said. According to the Heart Foundation recommendations as well, people without coronary heart disease do not need to take daily aspirin.

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

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