New study shows no benefit to daily low-dose aspirin in older people

A new study is rethinking the way elderly people use aspirin. 

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, regularly taking aspirin can actually be harmful. 

For years, most people who have suffered a heart attack or stroke have been encouraged to take an aspirin a day to keep the doctor away. In fact, it’s estimated that millions of people around the world currently take a daily low-dose of aspirin as a preventative. 

But a new study with ties to the Twin Cities shows that a daily low-dose aspirin regimen provides no significant health benefits for healthy adults. Rather, it suggests it could cause serious health problems.

Dr. Anne Murray is a geriatrics physician at Hennepin Healthcare and one of the lead investigators of the study. 

“The reason we wanted to do the study is that we wanted to fill that information gap for people 70 and older,” Dr. Murray said. “What we’ve demonstrated is that there really is no significant benefit of being on a low dose daily aspirin if you’re healthy and 70 and older, and that the risk of bleeding outweigh the benefits.”

The study looked at nearly 20,000 people in the U.S. and Australia for nearly five years.

Dr. Karen Margolis, the Executive Director of Research for HealthPartners Institute, led a recruitment site in the Twin Cities - which is the second largest in the U.S. 

“To prevent cardiovascular events, it looks like the clearest evidence of benefit is in people who are aged 50 to 59 or possibly even a little bit older, 60 to 69,” Dr. Margolis said.

Though researchers say some should re-evaluate their regimen, they are careful to advise a conversation with your doctor.

“We don't want to tell anybody to stop their aspirin who's already taking it; it's a very individual decision with each patient and they should discuss it with their doctor,” Dr. Margolis said.

Dr. Margolis said they've only just begun to scratch the surface of what they could learn about the long term effects of aspirin on people over the age of 70.

Researchers are looking to take up a second aspirin study that could shed more light on cardio-vascular disease, dementia, cancer and much more.