Taking aspirin over the age of 75 may result in fatal internal bleeding, but aspirin’s heart attack preventing benefits still outweigh the risks, according to a new study in the Lancet.
While the stomach bleeds can be potentially prevented by taking stomach-protecting PPI pills, taking a daily aspirin after a stroke or heart attack is still essential, and stopping aspirin use suddenly could be dangerous, according to BBC News.
Researchers have found that there is a much higher risk of fatal or disabling bleeds in people over 75-years-old who take a daily aspirin than previously thought. A daily aspirin dose of 75 mg is usually prescribed in both the U.S. and Europe to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
But the new study has shown that long-time daily use of aspirin increases the risk of stomach bleeds, which can be fatal in some cases. However, the risk of fatal bleeds is still overshadowed by the benefits of aspirin to prevent heart attacks, the research says.
The new research focused on people over 75-years-old, and it came to a worrying conclusion that people over that age are at a much higher risk of suffering from internal bleeds than those under 75.
The research involved more than 3,000 patients who had previously suffered a stroke or heart attack and were prescribed a daily aspirin to prevent more attacks.
There were more cases in stomach bleeds in patients over 75-years-old, while the risk of stomach bleeds in patients under 75-years-old was low. The study showed that in patients aged 75-years-old to 84-years-old, three people in every 200 were likely to suffer from stomach bleeds. The research also found that the risk of having fatal or disabling bleeds while taking aspirin increased with age.
Despite the worrying conclusion, the benefits of taking aspirin daily still outweigh the risks of bleeds in patients over 75-years-old, according to scientists at Oxford University. In fact, a sudden stop of aspirin use could be harmful, researchers warn.
Patients who are worried about major bleeds during use of aspirin should seek medical advice from their doctor before quitting aspirin or limiting its use.
If stomach-protecting PPI (proton pump inhibitor) pills are prescribed, the risk of stomach bleeds may be reduced. GP leader Prof. Helen Stokes-Lampard told BBC News that some patients may require “additional medication” to protect them from potential side effects of aspirin, including bleeds.
She added that the use of PPI pills as a secondary drug raises “a number of health implications.”
“It will continue to be necessary to make decisions on a case-by-case basis, considering the patient’s unique circumstances and medical history.”
The use of aspirin is widespread not only in the U.S. but in Europe, with roughly half of all adults over 75-years-old taking daily aspirin, according to the Medical Express. The recommended daily dose of aspirin to prevent heart attacks ranges from 75 mg to 150 mg.
A normal dose to treat a headache, meanwhile, ranges from 325 mg to 600 mg. Aspirin treatment is recommended by doctors in both the U.S. and Europe for patients who have suffered a stroke or heart attack.
For those who haven’t had a stroke or heart attack in the past but are considering to take daily aspirin, Dr. Tim Chico tells BBC News that the potential benefits and risks should be discussed with their doctor.
The use of PPI pills to prevent potential side effects from aspirin should also be discussed with a doctor, as PPIs have side effects of their own, ranging from flatulence and bloating to stomach infections.
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