Low-dose aspirin has no benefit for healthy, older people, brings risks

Doctors have long-touted the benefits of a low-dose aspirin, or baby aspirin, for older patients.

The treatment was said to help prevent cardiovascular disease or dementia. But a new study found it may do more harm than good, the Washington Post reported.

Researchers said that the treatment could lead to an increase of bleeding in the digestive tract and brain.

Scientists looked at more than 19,000 people over five years in Australia and the U.S.

Prior to the study, it was not fully clear if the low-dose daily aspirin was beneficial for people over the age of 70 who are healthy.

"Clinical guidelines note the benefits of aspirin for preventing heart attacks and strokes in persons with vascular conditions such as coronary artery disease," Richard J. Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, said in a press release to the Washington Post. "The concern has been uncertainty about whether aspirin is beneficial for otherwise healthy older people without those conditions."

The National Institute on Aging provide some of the funds of the study.

Most study participants were over the age of 70 and from Australia, but they also examined African-Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. starting at the age of 65 because they have a higher risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems than the Caucasian population, The Washington Post reported.

Half took a 100 milligram dose of aspirin every day. The dosage was slightly higher than a baby aspirin, which has 81 milligrams. The other half took a placebo, the Washington Post reported.

A different study published last month seems to agree with the findings. In that study, doctors found that it was too risky to give a daily low-dose aspirin for those at moderate risk of heart disease, NBC News reported.

"A lot of people read, 'Well, aspirin is good for people who have heart problems. Maybe I should take it, even if they haven't really had a heart attack," Anne Murray, a geriatrician and epidemiologist at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, told NPR. Murray was one of the leads on the study.

"For a long time there's been a need to establish appropriate criteria for when healthy people -- elderly people -- need aspirin," Murray told NPR.

To read the study, visit the New England Journal of Medicine.

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