Daily Aspirin Warning for Older Adults

While eating a healthy diet, exercising and staying mentally fit are factors proven to help you live longer, taking an aspirin every day does not, according to the results of a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

“This study confirms what many of us have known for years – that in otherwise healthy older adults, taking a daily aspirin has no real preventive benefit,” said Jonathan Fialkow, M.D., medical director of the Chest Pain Center, Cardiac Rehabilitation and Stress Lab at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute at Baptist Hospital. “It’s an example of conventional wisdom that becomes embedded in the way we think, but there’s no real data to back it up. Now we have proven results from a government-based clinical trial to prove those assumptions wrong.”

The study, primarily funded by the National Institute on Aging, involved more than 19,000 people ages 65 and older in the United States and Australia. Study participants were healthy; no one with cardiovascular disease, dementia or physical disability was included.

In addition to contradicting what many people have believed true for years about aspirin warding off heart attack and other disease, the study also confirmed taking a daily baby aspirin can increase a person’s risk for serious, potentially life-threatening bleeding.

“The risk of bleeding is especially dangerous for older people because they are more likely to fall,” Dr. Fialkow said. “If they fall and bang their head, a brain bleed that’s often a result can be life-threatening.”

Stomach ulcers are the other most common bleeding side effect from aspirin, Dr. Fialkow adds.  One of the main things he wants people to take away from this study’s findings is despite what medical claims you may be encouraged to follow, always talk to your doctor first.

“As treatment for cardiovascular disease evolves, the medical and science communities are questioning what treatments are really necessary?” Dr. Fialkow said.  “If there’s no proven reason to spend money on a certain medication or procedure, we should question why we’re doing it and apply medical resources where they’re most appropriate.”

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