Common medicine doing you harm

The millions of older Australians who take low-dose aspirin daily may be doing so at the cost of their health – and their wallet – as a new study finds it has no positive effect on otherwise healthy people.

The Australian-led study found that older people with no history of heart attack or stroke who were taking low daily doses of aspirin did not significantly reduce their risk of either condition.

The seven-year Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) study examined more than 19,000 people aged 70 and over in the United States and Australia. Participants had no history of cardiovascular disease, dementia or any other disability. Each randomly received 100mg of aspirin or a placebo pill a day and were monitored for an average of 4.7 years.

Contrary to findings in countless past studies, researchers in this trial found no evidence of the medicine prolonging a healthy lifespan, nor did it reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy adults. They also found no real sign that taking aspirin can reduce the likelihood of developing dementia.

However, the study did reveal that the use of low-dose aspirin significantly increased the chance of a major haemorrhage – bleeding that could lead to a stroke.

“That’s an issue in the elderly when people’s blood vessels are a bit more fragile,” said lead researcher Professor John McNeil from Monash University.

Prof. McNeil also says the study should be a warning to healthy older Australians to reconsider taking low-dose aspirin unless they have been advised to do so by a medical professional.

The Heart Foundation says a healthy lifestyle is a far better preventative measure.

“People aged over 45 with no known coronary heart disease will benefit most from a healthy lifestyle and seeing their doctor for risk assessments such as blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels,” said a Heart Foundation spokesperson.

While many may now think to stop taking their daily dose, doctors still say they should only do so after speaking with a medical professional.

“Sometimes people don’t remember why they started taking aspirin in the first place. They may have been taking it for five to 10 years … so they should really go back and talk to their GP before they stop taking it,” said president-elect of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Dr Harry Nespolon.

Do you take low-dose aspirin each day? Have you noticed any positive effects?

Related articles:
Aspirin: Should you be taking it?
Aspirin use linked to macular degeneration
Should all elderly people take aspirin?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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