Aspirin linked to increased anemia risk in healthy older adults

Low-dose aspirin linked to increased anemia risk in seniors.


A recent study suggests that using low-dose aspirin by healthy older adults may increase the risk of developing anemia. Anemia, characterized by low red blood cell count or insufficient hemoglobin, can have significant health implications, particularly in older populations.

The findings of this study shed light on a potential adverse effect associated with the use of low-dose aspirin, a commonly used medication for various health conditions. Understanding the risks and benefits of aspirin use in older adults is essential for informed decision-making and appropriate management of health conditions.

A study analyzing data from the ASPREE trial has revealed that prolonged daily use of low-dose aspirin increases the risk of anemia by 20% in individuals aged 70 and above. The study, led by Monash University, followed 18,153 initially healthy older adults in Australia and the USA over an average period of 4.7 years, recording incidents of anemia.

The findings have prompted researchers to recommend regular monitoring for anemia in older adults who take low-dose aspirin. They also emphasize the importance of discussing health concerns or medication-related questions with a general practitioner (GP). The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In the most extensive study investigating anemia in older adults as part of a randomized controlled trial called ASPREE (Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly), researchers observed the effects of daily low-dose aspirin (100mg) on anemia risk. The study included a placebo group and a group taking aspirin. Anaemia is common in older adults, leading to decreased functioning, increased fatigue, disabilities, depressive symptoms, and cognitive issues.

The study found that the aspirin group had a higher risk of developing anemia than the placebo group. Blood tests also revealed a faster decline in hemoglobin levels. They reduced the aspirin group’s ferritin levels (a protein that carries iron). The lead author, Associate Professor Zoe McQuilten from Monash University, noted that while bleeding is a known side effect of aspirin, few previous studies have examined the prolonged use of aspirin and its impact on the progressive development of anemia in older adults.

Associate Professor McQuilten said, “This study gives a clearer picture of the additional risk of becoming anemic with aspirin use, and the impact is likely to be greater in older adults with underlying diseases, such as kidney disease. Older adults are more likely to become anemic generally. Now, doctors can potentially identify patients at higher risk of developing anemia. Patients should not change their aspirin regimen without speaking to their GP.”

In conclusion, this study provides valuable insights into the impact of low-dose aspirin on the incidence of anemia in older adults. The results indicate an increased risk of developing anemia and suggest the need to regularly monitor hemoglobin levels in older adults who take low-dose aspirin. Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of discussing health concerns and medication-related questions with a healthcare provider. Further research is warranted to understand better the underlying mechanisms and potential strategies for mitigating the risk of anemia in older adults taking low-dose aspirin.

Journal Reference:

  1. Zoe K. McQuilten, Le Thi Phuong Thao, et al. Effect of Low-Dose Aspirin Versus Placebo on Incidence of Anemia in the Elderly. Annals of Internal Medicine. DOI: 10.7326/M23-0675
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