I frequently see patients who were started on a daily aspirin years ago to reduce their risk of heart attack. But is this effective or even safe? The answer for healthy, elderly patients is now clearly, No, based on a major new study. The study followed for 5 years 19,000 people age 65 and older in the United States and Australia who were randomized to aspirin or placebo. This study revealed that in healthy elderly (no know cardiovascular disease) should not take aspirin: "the risks outweigh the benefits for taking low-dose aspirin”: daily aspirin increases the risk of potentially life-threatening bleeding. Those who received aspirin were more likely to die of cancer, although the reason for this is not yet clear. This study should not change recommendations for other populations: people who have had a heart attack can significantly reduce their risk of another by taking a daily aspirin. And there is decent evidence that people younger than 70 who are at 10% risk of a heart attack could prevent such an event by taking daily aspirin. But for those healthy elderly, it is time to stop the aspirin.
Read: an NPR article summary of the findings from the most recent research
Read: the original New England Journal of Medicine research
Read: recommendations Aspirin Use to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease and Colorectal Cancer