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New study shows daily aspirin use poses a risk to older adults

Anaemia is commonly experienced by older adults, potentially affecting overall function and increasing fatigue, disabilities, depressive symptoms and cognitive problems.

<p>Anaemia is characterised by a lack of healthy red blood cells or haemoglobin for the body to regulate oxygen flow. (Source: Shutterstock)</p>

Anaemia is characterised by a lack of healthy red blood cells or haemoglobin for the body to regulate oxygen flow. (Source: Shutterstock)

Key points:

  • Worldwide, approximately 30 percent of people aged 75 years or older are anaemic
  • Most commonly attributed to iron deficiency (15-20 percent), medical comorbidities (including renal impairment) and/or inflammation
  • While the risk of overt bleeding due to aspirin has been previously established, the link to anaemia has been rather unnoticed

 

A new study looking at data from the Asprin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (Aspree) trial shows that habitual daily aspirin use increases the risk of anaemia by 20 percent in people 70 years of age or older.

Researchers of the Monash University-led trial suggest anaemia monitoring should be considered for older adults who take low-dose aspirin and have concerns about their health.

The Aspree study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, assesses 18,153 initially healthy older adults in Australia and North America, along with recorded incidents of anaemia over an average of 4.7 years. Half of the participants were taking a placebo and the other half were given half a daily low dose (100mg) of aspirin. The risk of developing anaemia was 20 percent higher in the aspirin group compared to those in the placebo group. 

Lead author, Associate Professor Zoe McQuilten from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, says only a few prior studies looked at the effect of prolonged aspirin use on the progressive development of anaemia in older adults.

“This study gives a clearer picture of the additional risk of becoming anaemic with aspirin use and the impact is likely to be greater in older adults with underlying diseases, such as kidney disease,”  Associate Professor McQuilten says.

Zoe says the new results offer doctors insight into the risk of anaemia from prolonged aspirin use by their older patients.

 

“Older adults are more likely to become anaemic generally and now doctors can potentially identify patients at higher risk of developing anaemia.”

 

Associate Professor McQuilten urges patients to follow the advice of their doctor about their daily use of aspirin. She cautioned that for some older adults, aspirin was recommended as a valuable therapy to prevent recurring heart attacks or stroke.

Harvard Medical School suggests that low doses of aspirin may help with prevention, along with an actual attack. Along with calling emergency services, chewing 325mg of aspirin may prevent blood clotting triggered by plaque ruptures. 

With over 100 billion aspirin tablets made each year, it is one of the most widely used over-the-counter medicines and its use is constantly assessed against conditions. Like all pharmaceutical goods, consumption of aspirin should be discussed with your general practitioner (GP) to see what works best for you.

For more information about health services available to you, check out the Aged Care Guide portal to find support and relevant resources. To read the Aspree study for yourself, please visit the Annals of Internal Medicine to find out more.

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