Aspirin doesn't reduce heart attack risk: Australian study

Many healthy older people self-medicate with a daily dose of aspirin

Our findings mean millions of healthy people over the age of 70, and their doctors, will now know daily aspirin is not the answer to prolonging good health.

Professor McNeil did warn, however, that the results do not apply to people with existing conditions, including a previous heart attack, angina or stroke, for which aspirin can be recommended to prevent further problems. The study began in 2010 and enrolled participants aged 70 and older; 65 was the minimum age of entry for African-American and Hispanic individuals in the United States due to their higher risk for dementia and cardiovascular disease.

Over the next four years, almost 20,000 people mostly over the age of 70 in both Australia and the USA were recruited for the trial.

Aspirin users did not have a lower risk of heart disease or live longer than those who took a placebo.

Of the aspirin-takers, 3.8% experienced serious bleeding compared to 2.8% in the placebo group.

"Cancer was the major contributor to the higher mortality in the aspirin group, accounting for 1.6 excess deaths per 1000 person-years".

Elderly people in good health should not take an aspirin a day, according to a major study in the USA and Australia. Professor McNeil said disability-free survival measures "how long it took for people to remain healthy without having a permanent physical disability or developing dementia", or the time people spent in "healthy state".

The study also reported that taking a daily aspirin did not help lower the risk of heart attack or stroke in people with high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

But controversy arising around the use of aspirin for primary prevention in the mid 2000s led to Monash University receiving initial funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

They did increase the number of major stomach bleeds. They took low-dose aspirin - 100 milligrams - or a placebo every day for a median of 4.7 years.

"I've spent the last five, six years trying to get all my seniors to stop taking aspirin" based on the clear risks and unproven benefit, he told Reuters Health by phone.

"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. Significant hemorrhage occurrences elementarily involved upper gastrointestinal and intracranial bleeding. They noted that aspirin does not protect individuals from dementia. The latest clinical trial, which was funded in part by the National Institute on Aging, is unique because it looked at a much older population of patients compared to previous studies. Since the 1960s it has been known that aspirin lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke among those who have had heart disease or stroke before.

McNeil said aspirin remains a relatively safe medication but more research was needed to investigate the longer-term benefits and risks of its daily use. "So, this is a welcomed study, but everybody who is now taking aspirin should obviously see their GP before making changes to their regime", he told Sky News.

"The use of low-dose aspirin resulted in a significantly higher risk of major hemorrhage and did not result in a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease than placebo", the researchers wrote in one of the papers.

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