Many heart-healthy older people take a daily baby aspirin out of a belief that it will help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
Aspirin has always been used as a preventative measure to help reduce the risk of blood clots in patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke.
"After a median of 4.7 years of follow-up, the rate of cardiovascular disease was 10.7 events per 1000 person years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person years in the placebo group". "Particularly bleeding, which is more common in older people".
It found similar survival rates as well as rates of disability, dementia, coronary heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes for the half taking 100mg of aspirin daily and the half taking a placebo.
"Cancer was the major contributor to the higher mortality in the aspirin group, accounting for 1.6 excess deaths per 1000 person-years".
"I think it is time we started to phase out the use of aspirin broadly for the purposes of prevention in individuals who have not had a heart attack or stroke", said Michos, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. 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. "Aspirin is the most widely used of all preventive drugs and an answer to this question is long overdue".
The researchers did not state whether healthy older people who have been taking aspirin should stop.
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Cardiologist Dr. Erin Michos called the results, "alarming", saying that aspirin should be prescribed only selectively.
Three reports in the New England Journal of Medicine showed the pills did not reduce their risk of heart problems or have any other benefits. They noted however the escalated rate of bleeding in the team that accrued aspirin, as compared to the team that accrued a placebo.
The "tentative finding" required further investigation as researchers in other studies suggest aspirin may prevent cancer, he said.
While evidence remains strong that baby aspirin therapy aids in preventing a second heart attack or stroke, the study explored whether a first heart attack can be prevented by the small amount of blood thinners in aspirin.
But a study involving more than 19,000 participants has found that there is no significant advantage and that taking aspirin regularly can instead lead to a slightly increased risk of serious bleeding.
The researchers point out that ASPREE's findings relate only to healthy older people, aged over 70 years, and do not apply to those taking aspirin on medical advice, for example those who have had a heart attack or stroke. Previous studies found aspirin may be protective against certain kinds of cancer. "In India, self treatment with aspirin is often seen, and it should be strictly forbidden", said Anoop Misra, chairman, Fortis-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology.