WEDNESDAY, Nov. 30, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Taking low-dose aspirin daily can reduce older Americans' risk of heart disease and cancer, and lead to significant savings in health care spending, a new study contends.
University of Southern California researchers used national data to assess the long-term benefits of daily aspirin usage. They calculated that taking low-dose aspirin every day would prevent 11 cases of heart disease and four cases of cancer for every 1,000 Americans ages 51 to 79.
"Although the health benefits of aspirin are well-established, few people take it," said study lead author Dr. David Agus. He's the founding director and CEO of the university's Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine.
"Our study shows multiple health benefits and a reduction in health care spending from this simple, low-cost measure that should be considered a standard part of care for the appropriate patient," Agus said in a university news release.
The study found, for example, that life expectancy would increase by 0.3 years (largely disability-free), which means that out of 1,000 people, eight more would reach age 80 and three more would reach age 100. By 2036, an estimated 900,000 more Americans would be alive, the researchers said.
In addition, daily low-dose aspirin use by older Americans would result in an estimated national net health benefit worth $692 billion, according to the study.
"The irony of our findings is that aspirin may be too cheap," said study co-author Dana Goldman, director of the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics.
"Only 40 percent of Americans are taking aspirin when they should, and providers have little incentive to push that number up, despite the obvious health benefits and health care savings," he noted.
"Until we figure out how to reward providers -- and manufacturers -- for long-term outcomes, no one is going to do anything about this problem," Goldman said.
Low-dose aspirin isn't a magic cure-all, however. The study revealed no significant reduction for stroke incidence. It also indicated that gastrointestinal bleeding would increase 25 percent from the current rate. This means two out of 63 Americans would likely suffer a bleeding incident between ages 51 and 79, the researchers said.
The study results were published Nov. 30 in the journal PLOS ONE.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helps identify who should talk to a doctor about daily low-dose aspirin use.