A daily aspirin regimen is often prescribed to older adults to protect against heart disease. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that almost 20 percent of all U.S. adults took aspirin every day or every other day in 2015. The belief is that aspirin, like other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), thins the blood so that it can flow more freely through veins and arteries. New research, however, contradicts these findings, leaving many older adults to question if daily aspirin is truly safe.
No Heart Health Benefits of Daily Aspirin
According to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), older adults who take a daily aspirin don’t have a lower risk of heart disease or stroke than older adults who refrain from taking this common over-the-counter drug. Researchers at the the University of Minnesota found no correlation between a daily aspirin regimen and a lower risk of heart disease or stroke. In fact, they found that older adults who took aspirin daily had a higher chance of early mortality from all causes than their counterparts.
Daily Aspirin Increases Risk of Stomach Bleeding
Not only does daily aspirin increase the risk of early mortality, but it may also cause stomach bleeding. A 2012 study cited by ABC News found that adults who took 300 milligrams of aspirin daily were 55 percent more likely to develop gastrointestinal bleeding.
Daily Aspirin and Cancer
Several studies, including the NEJM study previously mentioned, have found a link between daily aspirin and certain types cancer, including skin cancer. Conversely, other studies have found that daily aspirin reduces the risk of colorectal, ovarian and stomach cancer.
What About Past Heart Attack and Stroke Sufferers?
While taking aspirin on a daily basis has its risks, many doctors still recommend it to patients who’ve experienced a heart attack or stroke in the past. It thins the blood to improve cardiovascular function. Whether this means a lower risk of heart disease or stroke is open to debate, however. As new research emerges, more and more older adults are beginning to question the health benefits of daily aspirin.
Anyone who’s considering a daily aspirin regimen should consult with their primary care physician first. Only a qualified and licensed physician can say if it’s worth the risk.