While a daily dose of the blood-thinning medicine can protect older people who have previously experienced heart attacks, strokes and angina, researchers found the drug did not extend the lifespan of healthy people over the age of 70.
The ASPREE (ASpirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial involved 19,000 participants from Australia and the USA, making it the largest and most comprehensive study to look at whether there are any health benefits to taking 100 milligrams of aspirin a day for older people.
While aspirin has been a commonly used drug among the elderly, it has been taken with the risk of bleeding, which is known as a side-effect of taking the medication. "What we've demonstrated is that there really is no significant benefit of being on a low dose daily aspirin if you're healthy and 70 and older, and that the risk of bleeding outweigh the benefits".
"We knew there would an increased risk of bleeding with aspirin, because there has always been", said study coauthor Dr. Anne Murray, a geriatrician and epidemiologist at the Hennepin Healthcare Research Institute and the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Well, you might want to stop taking it now because a study released recently shows that small, daily doses of aspirin might do more harm than good for healthy seniors.
Researchers also looked at whether taking aspirin affected the likelihood of developing dementia, but found little difference between those who took aspirin and those who took a placebo.
Contrary to popular belief, an aspirin-a-day may not quite work as a preventive in older people who have not had a heart attack.
Do you take aspirin regularly?
"It's important that old people in their 70s, 80s and 90s can make a contribution to society like this".
Doctors in India say the findings have come as an eye opener for Indian population where self prescription is common.
"The authors rightly suggest treating the unexpected effects with caution, but they also show that benefits of aspirin in healthy people are at best limited, and may well be harmful, and this harm may be increased beyond age 73", Evans added.
First developed in 1897, aspirin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory.
After almost five years, the researchers did not observe a difference between the two groups when it came to "disability-free survival". "We found there was no evidence that aspirin did healthy people any good in terms of living longer, remaining free of disability for longer, or preventing cardiovascular disease", he explained.
The test subjects, a lot of them from Australia, were older than 70, except for blacks and Hispanics in the United States, who were recruited at age 65 or older because people in those groups have a higher risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems than whites.
Around half of the participants took a 100mg low dose of aspirin daily, while the others were given a placebo. Further research that may identify which groups would benefit from regular aspirin use is underway, McNeil said. All the contenders were contemplated healthy at the time of enlisting with nobody traumatizing from heart disease, dementia or determined physical illness.
MURRAY: For a long time, there's been a need to establish appropriate criteria for when healthy people, elderly people, need aspirin.