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And it had been apparent since the 1990s there was a lack of adequate evidence to support the use of low-dose aspirin in healthy older people.

Aspirin did not significantly reduce the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or extend life free of disability or dementia among healthy adults over the age of 70, a comprehensive study found.

The results of the study, led by John McNeil of Monash University in Melbourne, were released Sunday in three articles in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Participants took either aspirin or a placebo daily over a four-and-a-half year period.

There is still strong evidence that a daily baby aspirin can reduce the risk that many people who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke will suffer another attack.

Those who participated in the studies were randomly given either 100mg aspirin or a placebo - both in the form of a tablet, which they took orally. The higher death rate in the aspirin-treated group was due primarily to a higher rate of cancer deaths. They did, however, document a higher rate of bleeding in the group that received aspirin, compared to the group that received a placebo.

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. The new study was created to find out whether low-dose aspirin could prolong healthy, independent living in seniors who had not shown signs of heart disease. "Many people, including me, do not believe that aspirin offers meaningful benefits in primary prevention and carries substantial bleeding risks".

Continuing follow-up of the ASPREE participants is crucial, said Dr. Evan Hadley, director of NIA's Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology.

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A DAILY aspirin will not lower the risk of death or heart attacks in healthy older people but will increase the risk of internal bleeding, a major Australian-American study has found.

ASPREE was led by Monash University in Australia and the Berman Center for Outcomes and Clinical Research in the USA. Previous studies have not shown such increases, and reductions in bowel cancer have been seen in some studies.

Their health was re-examined after around five years. According to the Heart Foundation recommendations as well, people without coronary heart disease do not need to take daily aspirin. 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. Instead, it may cause them serious harm.

"There was more bleeding, particularly from the stomach and upper gastrointestinal tract", Prof McNeil told AAP.

Should older people in good health start taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks, strokes, dementia and cancer?

There are proven benefits of the drug for people after a heart attack or stroke. "Aspirin is a double-edged sword; it is absolutely essential drug and a lifesaver in patients with established heart disease (or arterial blockages) and many patients with diabetes where risk is high".

The doctors unexpectedly found that those who took aspirin were slightly more likely to have died over the course of the trial (5.9%) than those who took the placebo (5.2%).

With the growing proportion of elderly people in our community, a major focus of preventive medicine is to maintain the independence of this age-group for as long as possible.


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