UIHC doctor says aspirin could have negative effects on elderly

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - People who have survived a heart attack or stroke may take aspirin to try to keep that from happening again, according to health experts. But there are some people who take it who haven't had any problems at all.

Photo: MGN Online

Dr. Michael Ernst, PharmD, with the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics says that may not be a good idea for people age 70 or older.

Over a seven-year period, Ernst conducted a study to see if aspirin benefited them. The study involved people age 70 and older who did not have a condition that required aspirin. They were each given a 100-milligram aspirin to take daily.

The study found that aspirin didn't reduce their risk of having one or the other. Instead, he found it actually created a different health risk.

"We found about a 38 percent increased risk of major hemorrhage,” he said. “So that would be bleeding into the gastrointestinal tract, primarily, or bleeding into the brain that requires medical attention."

Ernst says that's because aspirin inhibits platelets, causing people to bleed easier. Ernst says people taking aspirin for their medical condition should continue taking it, but those taking it as a prevention method should talk to their doctor.

"If you're an otherwise healthy individual 70 and older, with no medical indication for aspirin, it does not appear to make any sense for you to start taking aspirin,” he said. “I think it's a little trickier for a question if you're already taking it and now you're 70 years of age, should you discontinue it? That's not something we've looked at yet.”