Baby Aspirin a Day? New Study Suggests Not Right for All Adults
By Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF
For years, many older adults have taken a daily baby aspirin because it was thought to help reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke and even dementia. But a new study, published in a series of papers in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that not only does baby aspirin not prolong lifespan in older adults, but that it may pose more risks than benefits for some.
The study, which involved more than 19,000 people from the US and Australia, examined the effects of a single daily low-dose (100 milligrams) aspirin or placebo. The subjects in the study were followed for an average of 4.7 years. The findings? Both groups had nearly identical rates of cardiovascular events and survival rates at the end of the study, thus there was no discernible benefit of aspirin on prolonging independent healthy life for the elderly who are otherwise healthy.
However, there is still strong evidence that a daily baby aspirin can reduce the risk for those who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke from a repeat attack.
So, if it’s good for one group, then why not have all older adults take a daily baby aspirin? Because aspirin, though seemingly harmless, is an anti-coagulant, which in older adults, can increase the risk for serious – even life-threatening – bleeding. For otherwise healthy older adults who have not had a prior attack, there appears to be no clinical reason to take a daily aspirin.
How do you know what is best for you? Talk with your doctor as every individual’s personal health history is relevant. But in general, a daily baby aspirin for older adults who have never had a heart attack or stroke is not indicated, and in fact, may pose risk of bleeding.
Older adults who wish to reduce their risk of a cardiovascular event, however, can take other simple steps: regular exercise, reduced alcohol consumption and a heart-healthy diet.