Prof Peter Rothwell, of Oxford University, a leading expert on the drug, said the findings were definitive: "Taking aspirin if you are otherwise healthy, over the age of 70, if you haven't had a previous heart attack or stroke, is really of very little benefit".
"After a median of 4.7 years of follow-up, the rate of cardiovascular disease was 10.7 events per 1000 person years in the aspirin group and 11.3 events per 1000 person years in the placebo group".
"We found there was no discernible benefit of aspirin on prolonging independent, healthy life for the elderly", Dr. Anne Murray, one of the authors of the study and an epidemiologist and geriatrician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, told National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Rob Stein. It will do your heart health no good, as is popularly believed.
The study, involving 19,114 older people - 16,703 in Australia and 2,411 in the United States - began in 2010 and enrolled participants aged 70 and older. Patients who were black or Hispanic and living in the United States - two groups that face a higher risk of heart disease or dementia - could be age 65 or older. The age limit was lowered for those groups because blacks and Hispanics tend to be younger than whites when they have their first heart attack or stroke.
Most volunteers had to be at least 70 years old.
The findings do not apply to people taking aspirin because of a heart attack or stroke - they should continue to follow their doctor's advice. The patients who took aspirin didn't report differences in dementia or physical disability compared to the control group. Also, the rates of physical disability dementia were similar in both groups.
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But the rate of bleeding was significantly different.
However, the cases of major bleeding were 38 per cent more with aspirin.
There's a common belief a low dose of aspirin a day helps seniors live longer, but a new study has found it does nothing of the sort.
The test subjects, a lot of them from Australia, were older than 70, except for blacks and Hispanics in the United States, who were recruited at age 65 or older because people in those groups have a higher risk of heart disease and cardiovascular problems than whites. This finding was surprising because nearly half of those extra deaths were due to cancer, including colorectal and other gastrointestinal cancers.
The "tentative finding" required further investigation as researchers in other studies suggest aspirin may prevent cancer, he said.
"These findings will help inform prescribing doctors who have always been uncertain about whether to recommend aspirin to healthy patients who do not have a clear medical reason for doing so", John McNeil, head of the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University in Australia, said in a statement.
So what should older healthy adults do with this new information about aspirin?