Aspirin study shows bleeding risk higher than heart benefits for many seniors

Lily Moran
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Posted: Dec 20, 2018 8:35 AM

Not too long ago, I wrote that a growing body of research recently prompted the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) to revise its recommendations for daily, low-dose aspirin use. Well, a new study further warns about the dangers of daily aspirin—especially for people over the age of 70.

So again, the conventional wisdom for taking aspirin for heart health has been overturned. I understand if all these changes are confusing you as to what to take, what not to take, and under what conditions you can or can’t take aspirin. Please read on and allow me to break it all down for you.

A Major Study on Aspirin’s Effects on Seniors

Aspirin has been a fixture in the American medicine cabinet since the late 19th century. Originally used—and still used—as a painkiller, it’s now more commonly taken daily for heart health: prevention of blood clots, prevention of repeat heart attacks in men, prevention of repeat strokes in women. Past research also showed that it can help prevent colorectal cancer.

Doctors touted these benefits for years, and therefore the American public was led to believe that aspirin is safe and effective for a wide variety of people for a wide variety of ailments. But recent research complicates this.

A major study of more than 19,000 people over the age of 65 suggests that taking a daily aspirin had no significant effect on prolonging an independent, healthy life. That doesn’t sound like big news, but consider the millions of seniors who take aspirin daily. It’s likely not having a healthy effect on many of them.

In fact, it’s likely harming them. In the same study, those who took aspirin daily were more likely to die compared to people who took a placebo.

The major risk of daily aspirin is bleeding—and this risk becomes greater as you age. Simply put, if you are over 70 years old, aspirin is more destructive to your body than it was when you were younger.

This is where the revised recommendations from the USPSTF regarding aspirin come into play.

Revised—and Again Updated—Aspirin Guidelines

I’m not saying that you should throw away your aspirin and never take it again. When teamed with a healthy lifestyle, it can prevent blood clots, repeat heart attacks and strokes, and colorectal cancer—for some people.

The USPSTF recommends a more patient-specific approach to daily aspirin in which you weigh your risks and benefits. And those risks and benefits vary based on a lot of factors specific to you—your age, health history, gender, race, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, health history, and other factors such as whether you smoke or have diabetes. For example, some people are more susceptible to heart disease that aspirin aims to prevent, and some people are more susceptible to the internal bleeding that aspirin can cause.

The USPSTF punched all these factors into an algorithm to develop a calculator to determine a person’s 10-year risk for developing Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease (ASCVD). Your doctor can enter specific information about you and your health to determine your risk for ASCVD.

As a reference point, a 7.5% risk of ASCVD is considered “elevated.”

Using these calculated risks for ASCVD, the USPSTF recommended the following:

  • Patients under the age of 50: No recommendations because researchers are unable to evaluate the benefits versus the risks.
  • Patients ages 50 to 59: A daily low-dose aspirin (81 mg) is recommended if you have a 10% or greater ASCVD risk and if you don’t have any other factors that would elevate your risk of bleeding. This group is also most likely to benefit from colorectal cancer prevention. Benefits are maximized if you commit to taking aspirin daily and if your life expectancy is at least 10 more years.
  • Patients ages 60 to 69: The decision to initiate daily low-dose aspirin therapy should be evaluated on an individual basis if you have a 10% or greater ASCVD risk. You are likely to benefit from daily low-dose aspirin if you aren’t at increased risk for bleeding and have a life expectancy of at least 10 more years, but that benefit won’t have as much of an impact as it does for people ages 50 to 59. The same is true about reducing your risk for colorectal cancer. Bottom line, the pros may not outweigh the cons.

Now, this is where the new study changes daily aspirin recommendations…

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Last year, the USPSTF gave no recommendation regarding daily aspirin for people age 70 or older. Officially, it hasn’t changed its position yet because the previously mentioned study is very new.

But I’m not waiting for the USPSTF, FDA or any other medical body to issue a statement. I’m telling you right here and right now that I strongly recommend that you discontinue taking daily aspirin if you are age 70 or older. And if you are younger than 70, I continue to recommend that you always talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of a daily, low-dose aspirin regimen before starting it.

Natural Alternatives to Aspirin Therapy for Seniors

Aspirin is still a versatile medicine, but it’s also replaceable. And, thankfully, there are natural alternatives to aspirin that can replicate its major benefits without risk of internal bleeding.

To lower cholesterol, I recommend berberine and bergamot. In one 30-day study, the bergamot group saw:

  • A 28% reduction in total cholesterol levels
  • A 41% drop in triglyceride levels
  • 33% less LDL cholesterol
  • A 22.4% reduction in blood sugar levels
  • And better circulation

Meanwhile, studies show that berberine promotes healthy bile flow. That doesn’t sound important, but in fact it’s a crucial way that your body disposes of toxins.

I recommend that you look for supplements containing 500 mg/day of both berberine and bergamot.

Meanwhile, to improve and regulate blood pressure, I suggest you look into grapeseed extract and nattokinase. Studies show that when taken together, grapeseed extract and nattokinase:

  • Reduce fibrin accumulation—the chemical your body uses to create blood clots
  • Lower inflammation and helps open blood vessels for better circulation
  • Improve blood pressure levels to a healthy range
  • Support overall cardiovascular health

Look for cardio supplements that contain 300 mg/day of grapeseed extract and 2000 FU (formation units) of nattokinase.

Even better, all four of the above natural alternatives to aspirin can reduce inflammation, which is the root of nearly all illnesses under the sun. Just in case you needed an extra incentive to take them all!

Everything to Gain, Nothing to Lose

The urgency of this study and USPSTF recommendation is real. The conventional wisdom that daily, low-dose aspirin is safe for everyone has been overturned. In fact, it’s been overturned twice in the past two years!

I don’t want you taking any pill if it’s not doing any good—and especially if it’s linked to early death! If you are over the age of 70, I strongly urge you to talk with your doctor about discontinuing daily aspirin. I also suggest that you consider natural alternatives to heart health that are free from side effects.

If you have nothing to gain and everything to lose by taking regular aspirin, you now have everything to gain and nothing to lose by turning to natural alternatives.

References

Stein, Rob. “Study: A Daily Baby Aspirin Has No Benefit For Healthy Older People.” NPR. Published September 16, 2018.

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