In fact, it's estimated that millions of people around the world now take a daily low-dose of aspirin as a preventative.
The clinical trial did not include people who take aspirin for medical reasons as advised by their doctor, including those who have already suffered a heart attack or stroke.
Its findings could lead to a rethink of global guidelines relating to the use of aspirin to prevent common conditions associated with ageing.
It's one of the most well-known tenets of modern medicine: An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away.
Professor McNeil added that a small increase in deaths observed in the aspirin group, primarily from cancer, required further investigation as researchers can not rule out that it may be a chance finding.
The participants took a daily low-dose of aspirin every day for almost five years, with researchers monitoring their health and any occurrences of disease, disability or death. "But for the people who decide to take aspirin just off their own bat, this research has cast some doubt over whether it is a good idea". "It is to the great credit to the US NIH and the Australian NHMRC that they recognised this need and underwrote the substantial cost of undertaking a study of this magnitude".
Significant bleeding-a known risk of regular aspirin use-was also measured. It involved 19,114 older people, with 16,703 in Australia and 2,411 in the United States.
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Low-dose aspirin or around 100 mg of aspirin is taken regularly by millions of people around the globe to prevent the first heart attack or stroke and also to prolong life and ensure better health.
Aspirin users also showed a higher risk of all-cause mortality (12.7 versus 11.1 per 1,000 person-years, HR 1.14, 95% CI 1.01-2.19), which was driven by cancer deaths (6.7 versus 5.1 per 1,000 person-years, HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.10-1.56).
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"I've spent the last five, six years trying to get all my seniors to stop taking aspirin" based on the clear risks and unproven benefit, he told Reuters Health by phone. He cautioned that the results do not apply to those with existing conditions such as a previous heart attack, angina or stroke, where aspirin is recommended as a valuable preventive drug.
"Interpretation of these results should take into account the lower-than-expected rate of cardiovascular disease among the trial participants. most likely reflecting the relatively good health of the participant population at recruitment and the declining rate of cardiovascular disease in the two countries over time and across all age groups", the investigators suggested.
"I think it is time we started to phase out the use of aspirin broadly for the purposes of prevention in individuals who have not had a heart attack or stroke", said Michos, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and director of preventive cardiology at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.