Low-dose aspirin may increase anemia risk in healthy older adults
A large new study has found that healthy older adults taking a long-term low dose of aspirin may be at increased risk of developing anemia. The researchers say their findings suggest that these patients may need regular monitoring.
Due to its blood-thinning properties, aspirin is often used in low doses to stave off heart attacks or strokes or to prevent a recurrence of these conditions. While the risks of aspirin causing bleeding are well-known, few studies have looked at how prolonged low-dose aspirin use affects the risk of anemia in older adults.
Anemia occurs when there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells. The red blood cells carry oxygen via hemoglobin, an iron-containing protein. A lack of these cells means there’s less oxygen circulating to the organs and tissues, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, light-headedness, or a rapid heartbeat. Anemia can be caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12, folic acid or iron and chronic diseases like kidney disease, cancer, or rheumatoid arthritis.
A new study led by researchers from Monash University, Australia, has analyzed data from the ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly (ASPREE) trial, a long-term multi-center study of aspirin and health in older adults, to examine how taking low-dose aspirin in the long term affects the risk of anemia.
The researchers followed 18,153 initially healthy adults from Australia and the US aged 70 or over for over four-and-a-half years. Half the participants took a daily low dose (100 mg) of aspirin, the other half took a placebo.
They found that the risk of developing anemia in the group taking aspirin was 20% higher than those in the placebo group. They also found that hemoglobin levels declined faster, and there were reduced ferritin levels in the aspirin-taking group. Ferritin is a blood protein that contains iron. The reduced hemoglobin and ferritin levels were not due to major bleeding.
“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,” said Zoe McQuilten, lead author of the study.
The researchers say their study’s findings suggest that health professionals might consider more frequent monitoring for symptoms of anemia in healthy older adults taking aspirin.
“Older adults are more likely to become anemic generally and now doctors can potentially identify patients at higher risk of developing anemia,” McQuilten said.
But, the researchers urge people not to stop taking aspirin or alter their medication dosage without first speaking to their doctor, especially where the drug is being taken to prevent blood clotting, heart attack or stroke.
The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Source: Monash University