Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Should You Take Aspirin? Sorting Through The Conflicting Data

Does daily aspirin do more harm than good?

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Another Study - Different Results
Past research was so clear about taking aspirin for lowering the risk of heart attack, clot-related strokes, and most recently for cancer prevention, that aspirin has become one of the most commonly used drugs. According to a 2007 report by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -
Those taking aspirin every day or every other day include:
* 19.3% of all U.S. adults
* 59% of adults who have indicators of heart disease 
Broken down by age
* 27% of all adults between 45 to 64
* 48.5% of all adults age 65 and over
* 63.7% of those over 65 who had indicators of heart disease
* 41.4% of those over 65 who were never told they had indicators of heart disease

Recent Study Results
The latest study published January 9, 2012,  did an analysis of nine random studies in the US, Europe and Japan that involved over 100,000 participants. All these participants had never had a heart attack or stroke but all were taking aspirin or a placebo to find out if aspirin would prevent these events.
* Regular aspirin users were 10% less likely than the placebo users to have any type of heart event.
* Aspirin users were 20% less likely to have a nonfatal heart attack.
* Aspirin users were 30% MORE LIKELY to have serious gastrointestinal bleeding.
* The risk of dying during the study was THE SAME for aspirin users and those taking placebos.
* Taking aspirin on a regular basis did not show any benefit with regard to cancer prevention.

To Summarize
These participants, who have never had previous heart events and were taking aspiring to prevent these events, were 10% less likely to have any type of heart event and 20% less likely to have a nonfatal heart attack. Although this sounds like great news, they were 30% more likely to have serious GI bleeding and overall, did not have any lower risk of dying than those on the placebos. It also showed that regular aspirin use did not prevent cancer.
What's important to note is that this study did not demonstrate or dispute the benefits for those who have had previous heart attacks.

What To Do
According to this study, I would suggest the following (after, of course, discussing this with your doctor):
* If you have never had a stroke or heart attack and have no indication that you have high risk indicators for these events, aspirin may cause more harm than good, especially if you have gastrointestinal issues.
* If you have a family history of heart attack or stroke and you have some indicators like high blood pressure, high C-reactive protein or high cholesterol, you should discuss continuing an aspirin regimen with your doctor.
* If you are prone to gastric bleeding and you are taking aspirin, you should discuss discontinuing aspirin with your doctor and consider healthful ways to ensure heart health (see below). 
* If you decide to stop taking aspirin, do so gradually.
* For heart health, exercise daily and consider eating plenty of heart-healthy foods such as oatmeal, walnuts, flaxseeds, wild caught salmon, blueberries, beans, almonds, a glass of red wine, non-gmo tofu or soy milk, broccoli, dark chocolate and green tea, to name a few. Avoid saturated and transfats and limit consumption of meat and dairy products. 
* The DASH diet is recommended for people with hypertension and can be effective for the prevention of stroke and cardiovascular disease. This diet focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables nuts, seeds, legumes and for those who consume animal products, low or no fat dairy and lean meats, fish and poultry.
* To prevent cancer, follow the recommendations of the American Institute for Cancer Research which is to be physically active each day, have a healthy weigh and choose mostly plant foods.

1 comment:

ana manwaring said...

I don't take aspirin, but I've wondered about it. Stomach bleeding doesn't sound like a good alternative. I'd wondered about that because I'd heard aspirin can cause bleeding.I'm hoping clean living will suffice for me. I'm planning on living to 100!