A recent study suggests that a long-term aspirin use in patients over 75 years old, increases the risk of major bleeding and death.
A study done in the UK noted that approximately 40% of people over the age of 75 take daily aspirin and that lifelong aspirin treatment is a recommendation for people who have had a stroke or a heart attack.
There are very well established preventative effects that the aspirin has in people who have had a major heart problem, by reducing the risk of another attack or stroke by 20%.
Prof Peter Rothwell, from Oxford University and the lead author of the study suggests that the answer to these problems is a prescription of heartburn drugs known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs), which can reduce the bleeding risk up to 90%. As it now stands, PPIs are being prescribed only in the minority of cases.
According to Rothwell, the risk of bleeding is much higher in those over 75 years old, but for people under that age, who take aspirin as a secondary prevention, the benefits outweigh the small risk of bleeding. For that reason, people under 75 are not to be worried by this study.
However, the key message here seems to be that this risk is hugely preventable by simply taking PPIs with the aspirin. Many of the deaths caused by aspirin could have been prevented by that simple step. However, according to Rothwell, it is not a good idea to stop using aspirin without consulting your doctor. Always consult first before stopping the use of any medication.
A study called the Oxford Vascular Study examined 3,166 patients who had a history of a heart attack or a stroke and who were prescribed antiplatelet drugs, usually aspirin. The study covered a time frame of 10 years and recorded 314 study subjects who were admitted to the hospital on the account of bleeding. The risk of fatal bleeding clearly increased with age.
The study, however, could not establish that the risk is caused entirely by aspirin seeing that previous studies implied that approximately 50% of bleeds would have happened regardless of the aspirin consumption.