Unless someone has already had a heart attack or other cardiovascular event, daily low-dose aspirin does not prolong healthy independent living, according to the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial.
The study began in 2010, enrolling 19,114 adults aged ≥ 65 years. The participants were treated with 100 mg/d of aspirin or placebo and followed for an average of 4.7 years. Of participants randomly assigned aspirin, 90.3% were still alive at the end of the treatment without persistent physical disability or dementia, as were 90.5% of those on placebo. Rates of dementia were almost identical in both groups. Major cardiovascular events were similar: 448 in the aspirin group and 474 in the placebo group.
The aspirin group had a slightly higher risk of death (5.9% vs 5.2%). The researchers advise interpreting this cautiously: Most of the deaths were due to cancer. A small increase in new cases of cancer was reported for the aspirin group but may have been due to chance. Heart disease accounted for 19% of deaths and major bleeding for 5%. People taking aspirin were more likely to have significant bleeding (3.8% vs 2.7%).
The researchers emphasize that, study findings notwithstanding, older adults should follow their physician’s advice about daily aspirin use. The new findings do not apply to people with an indication for aspirin, including stroke, heart attack, or other cardiovascular disease.