November 2018

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Health Capsule

Daily Aspirin May Not Benefit Healthy Older Adults

A new study found that, for healthy older adults, taking a low-dose aspirin each day didn’t extend life or prevent a first heart attack or stroke.

Heart diseases and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability in older adults in the U.S. These are often caused by blood clots that form in the blood vessels to the heart or the brain.

For people who’ve had a heart attack or stroke, aspirin can help prevent a second one. Aspirin helps thin the blood to avoid further blood clots. A low dose of daily aspirin has also been shown to reduce the risk of a first heart attack or stroke for people who are at high risk for these conditions.

To see if aspirin could benefit healthy older adults, too, researchers randomly assigned more than 19,000 healthy older adults to take aspirin or an inactive pill, or placebo. Most participants were 70 and older (65 and older for African-American and Hispanic individuals).

Both groups had similar rates of health problems and deaths. Aspirin didn’t reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, physical disability, or dementia. Those taking aspirin had an increased risk of bleeding, which was already a known risk of regular aspirin use.

“These initial findings will help to clarify the role of aspirin in disease prevention for older adults,” says Dr. Evan Hadley, who oversees clinical aging research at NIH’s National Institute on Aging. “But much more needs to be learned.”

Talk to your health care provider about your health risks and whether daily aspirin use is right for you.