Think twice before starting to take daily aspirin

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Taking a low-dose aspirin daily has no benefit in warding off dementia, disability or cardiovascular disease in healthy, older adults, and may instead increase their risk of serious and potentially life-threatening bleeding, according to a study published on Sunday. As new preventive opportunities arise they will typically require large clinical trials, and the structure of the Australian health system has proven an ideal setting for this type of study. Prescribing aspirin to healthy people to prevent the onset of heart disease is controversial although it happens.

"The concern has been uncertainty about whether aspirin is beneficial for otherwise healthy older people". They were then followed for a median of 4.7 years.

The doctors found that taking a daily low-dose aspirin did not decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke among participants when compared with the placebo group.

Clinically significant bleeding - hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal hemorrhages or other hemorrhages that required transfusion or hospitalisation - occurred in 3.8 per cent on aspirin and in 2.7 per cent taking the placebo.

There was also an increase in cancer deaths in the aspirin-treated group, which surprised the researchers.

At the end of the study, the rate of cardiovascular disease between the two groups of participants was not much different: 9,525 of those taking the aspirin had developed cardiovascular disease compared to 9,589 of those taking the placebo. The trial will result in a rethinking of global guidelines relating to the use of aspirin to prevent common conditions associated with ageing, he says. "But for the people who decide to take aspirin just off their own bat, this research has cast some doubt over whether it is a good idea".

While a daily dose of the blood-thinning medicine can protect older people who have previously experienced heart attacks, strokes and angina, researchers found the drug did not extend the lifespan of healthy people over the age of 70.

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It's one of the most well-known tenets of modern medicine: An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away.

The first study comes from Monash University in Australia, where researchers followed almost 20,000 people across Australia and the US for a period of five years. Yet, many healthy older people continued being prescribed aspirin for this goal.

"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", McNeil said.

"ASPREE is a study that was probably long overdue", he said.

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.

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).

"If they have such disease in the past, they need to take the aspirin to prevent the recurrence of similar disease in the future", he said.

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