"Clinical guidelines note the benefits of aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes in persons with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease", said Richard J. Hodes, the director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study, in a news release.
While healthy individuals may not need to take up a daily dose, there is a plethora of evidence showing an aspirin regimen can help people who have had a heart attack or stroke from having another one. However, studies in younger people showed that the risks outweighed the benefits and the new research confirms that the same is true for the elderly.
"We knew there would an increased risk of bleeding with aspirin, because there has always been", said study coauthor Dr. Anne Murray, a geriatrician and epidemiologist at the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
"Despite the fact that aspirin has been around for more than 100 years, we have not known whether healthy older people should take it as a preventive measure to keep them healthy for longer", Professor McNeil said.
The minimum age was 70; 65 in the United States for African-American and Hispanic individuals due to their higher risk for dementia and cardiovascular disease. In the final 12 months of the trial, 62.1 percent of the participants in the aspirin group and 64.1 percent of those in the placebo group reported that they were still taking their assigned dosage. Rates of physical disability and dementia were similar between the groups.
However, the cases of major bleeding were 38 per cent more with aspirin. Hemorrhagic stroke, bleeding in the brain, gastrointestinal bleeding and bleeding in other sites that required transfusion or hospitalization occurred in 361, or 3.8 percent, of participant in the aspirin-treated group and 265, or 2.7 percent, of those in the placebo group.
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McNeil added that a small increase in deaths observed in the aspirin group, primarily from cancer, required further investigation as researchers can not rule out that it may be a chance finding.
"Aspirin is the most widely used of all preventative drugs and an answer to this question is long overdue". "It is possible pre-existing cancers may have interacted with the aspirin".
The study, involving 19,114 older people - 16,703 in Australia and 2,411 in the United States - began in 2010 and enrolled participants aged 70 and older. However, more research was needed to investigate its use more thoroughly.
A trial of aspirin in the elderly was first called for in the early 1990s.
An arrangement of aspirin pills in NY. Patients now get statins to lower cholesterol and anti-hypertensive medications to lower blood pressure.
The participants took a daily low-dose of aspirin every day for almost five years, with researchers monitoring their health and any occurrences of disease, disability or death.
Major risks of bleeding in people who consume aspirin on a daily basis overwhelm its benefits.