Health Care Providers Warn Popular Drug Used By Millions of Seniors Poses Risk of Internal Bleeding

By: Sam Watanuki | Published: Jul 03, 2024

Despite warnings, millions of seniors continue to use aspirin daily. A recent study revealed that 18.5 million older adults were still taking aspirin in 2021, with 3.3 million doing so without medical advice.

This widespread use raises significant health concerns.

Changing Recommendations for Aspirin Use

In 2018, health authorities revised their guidance on aspirin use for those over 60.

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They highlighted that the risks of internal bleeding could outweigh the benefits for individuals without prior heart conditions. This change aimed to reduce unnecessary risks among seniors.

Aspirin's History as a Preventive Measure

Aspirin has long been used to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Its blood-thinning properties help reduce clot formation, lowering the chances of cardiovascular events.

Close-up photograph of white pills with the word “aspirin” written on them

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However, this same mechanism also increases the risk of internal bleeding.

Internal Bleeding Risks

Aspirin impairs blood clotting, which can lead to severe and life-threatening internal bleeding.

A doctor talking to an elderly patient who is in a wheelchair.

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Such bleeds often occur in the stomach or intestines and can cause significant blood loss, shock, and damage to critical tissues. In rare cases, bleeding in the brain can be fatal.

Study Findings on Aspirin Use

Researchers analyzed data from 180,000 patients aged 40 and older between 2012 and 2021. This study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, shed light on aspirin use and its associated risks.

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It involved data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), covering health habits of 35,000 adults annually.

Preventive Benefits for High-Risk Individuals

For those who have already faced a heart attack or stroke, aspirin is a crucial ally. It can slash the risk of another cardiovascular event by about 25%.

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However, if you haven’t had any prior heart conditions, the benefit isn’t quite the same.


Affordability and Accessibility of Aspirin

Aspirin is an affordable and accessible medication. Its low cost and easy availability contribute to its widespread use among seniors.

Numerous round white pills are arranged on a bright blue background

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However, affordability should not overshadow the potential risks involved.


Unsupervised Aspirin Use Among Seniors

3.3 million older adults were reportedly taking aspirin without any medical recommendation in 2021.

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This unsupervised use increases the risk of severe complications, highlighting the need for proper medical guidance before starting aspirin therapy.


Revised Guidelines for Aspirin Use

Health experts now recommend that individuals over 60 without prior cardiovascular events should avoid aspirin due to the risk of internal bleeding.

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This nuanced approach aims to balance the benefits and risks, ensuring that aspirin is used only when absolutely necessary.


The Role of Doctors in Aspirin Recommendations

Doctors may still suggest aspirin for individuals with significant arterial plaque or those who have experienced a heart attack or stroke.

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These recommendations are based on a thorough assessment of the patient’s health history and risk factors.


The Impact of Aspirin on Public Health

About 7% of adults over 60 have experienced a stroke, which means 5 million people. Meanwhile, 14% of those aged 65 to 74 have had a heart attack, affecting 4.6 million individuals.

White pills on a blue background

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These numbers highlight the critical importance of heart health as we age and underline the importance of tailored medical advice for aspirin use.


A Balanced Approach to Aspirin Use

Ultimately, the decision to use aspirin should be made in consultation with a healthcare provider. Considering the individual’s specific health history and risks is crucial.

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As research continues to evolve, the balance between aspirin’s benefits and risks remains a critical discussion for millions of seniors and their doctors.