Objectives: We sought to estimate the incidence of hospitalization for upper and lower gastrointestinal bleeding among older persons and to identify independent risk factors.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: The Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).
Participants: 5,888 noninstitutionalized men and women age 65 years or older in four U.S. communities enrolled in the CHS.
Measurements: Gastrointestinal bleeding events during the period 1989 through 1998 were identified using hospital discharge diagnosis codes and confirmed by medical records review. Risk-factor information was collected in a standardized fashion at study baseline and annually during follow-up.
Results: Among CHS participants (mean baseline age 73.3 years, 42% male), the incidence of hospitalized gastrointestinal bleeding was 6.8/1,000 person-years. In multivariate analyses, advanced age, male sex, unmarried status, cardiovascular disease, difficulty with daily activities, use of multiple medications, and use of oral anticoagulants were independent risk factors. Compared with nonsmokers, subjects who smoked more than half a pack per day had a multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of 2.14 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.22-3.75) for upper gastrointestinal bleeding and a multivariate-adjusted HR of 0.21 (95% CI = 0.03-1.54) for lower gastrointestinal bleeding. Aspirin users did not have an elevated risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding (HR = 0.76, 95% CI = 0.52-1.11), and users of other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs had a HR of 1.54 (95 % CI = 0.99-2.36). Low ankle-arm systolic blood pressure index was associated with higher risk of gastrointestinal bleeding among subjects with clinical cardiovascular disease but not among those without clinical cardiovascular disease.
Conclusion: This study identifies risk factors for gastrointestinal bleeding, such as disability, that may be amenable to modification. The findings will help clinicians to identify older persons who are at high risk for gastrointestinal bleeding.