An aspirin a day to improve your health?
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in North America. It claims over 700,000 lives each year. It has been strongly associated with poor lifestyle and while much of the public health focus is on ‘prevention’, its numbers continue to climb.
Let’s be clear – prevention is an act of avoidance of a negative event. I’ve never liked the term ‘preventative medicine’. What that truly implies is avoiding sickness or disease rather than moving towards optimal health. Many ‘preventative measures’ are encouraged from health care practitioners – don’t smoke, exercise, eat healthy, avoid saturated fats and take a baby aspirin every day to prevent heart attacks. While I agree that smoking is awful and exercise and proper eating are a must (INCLUDING SATURATED FATS), I decided to dive in a look a little deeper at aspirin.
Aspirin, one of the first drugs to come into common usage, is probably the most widely used drug in the world. Approximately 35,000 metric tons are produced and consumed each year, enough to make over 100 billion standard aspirin tablets. It is estimated that over one trillion aspirin tablets have been consumed in the past 100 years. Each year over 60 billion aspirin tablets are taken worldwide with Americans consuming 34 billion of those tablets. Presently, aspirin is most frequently prescribed for the prevention of heart disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, over 50 million Americans take aspirin for the prevention of heart disease. This accounts for about 350 million dollars in annual sales. It is estimated that in the next ten years, medical doctors will recommend that an additional ten million Americans should begin taking aspirin on a daily basis.
Physicians Health Group Study
A study by the Physicians Health Group concluded that an aspirin a day was an effective preventative treatment against heart attacks. The study was published and carried by leading magazines and newspapers all over the world. The drug industry launched an extensive media campaign promoting this important health discovery.
What the study failed to mention was that it was conducted with buffered aspirin, which contains magnesium. Magnesium is a valuable mineral which has long been associated with the prevention of heart attacks. Follow-up studies revealed that aspirin alone did nothing to prevent heart attacks. Sadly, the results of the follow-up studies received little media attention.
A study in the International Journal of Epidemiology reported that serum magnesium levels are inversely related to the risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Serum magnesium concentration, independent of other risk factors, was inversely associated with death from all causes and from heart disease.
A study in the Lancet reported that magnesium deficiency may also be implicated in coronary heart disease when it was revealed that injections of magnesium sulfate brought about dramatic clinical improvement in patients suffering from heart disease and in many cases the lipoprotein levels were brought back to normal levels.
What does this all mean?
It’s the magnesium at work here NOT the acetylsalicylic acid. Magnesium is a requirement for proper health and function.
Another recent study indicates that an aspirin-a-day may do a lot more damage to your health. turns out it can do a number on your stomach. The FDA estimates that NSAID’s, (which includes aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen) account for a reported 200,000 cases of gastrointestinal bleeding, 107,000 hospitalizations and as many as 20,000 deaths each year.
The American Association for Cancer Research in Phoenix, Arizona presented a study in October, 2003. The study indicated that people who take an aspirin-a-day may risk pancreatic cancer.
This study looked at 88,000 women who took aspirin for a long period of time. Women who took two or more aspirin a week had an increase risk for pancreatic cancer by a whopping 58% and the women who took 14 or more aspirin a week increased their risk of pancreatic cancer by an amazing 86%!
Does it actually reduce the risk of heart attacks?
Why would someone take an aspirin-a-day? We are made to believe that an aspirin-a-day will reduce our risk of heart disease. Turns out it can….but only after someone has experienced a heart attack. If you have had a cardiac event, then studies show it can reduce your risk of a future event. If you are in the midst of a cardiac event it can also prevent cardiac arrest. This is when the term prevention is put to good use.
So, it may reduce our risk of heart attacks but it show little use for those trying to avoid an initial cardiac event and you increase your risk for other diseases such as stomach problems, kidney problems, stopping your blood from clotting correctly and even pancreatic cancer.
According to recent studies, research shows that aspirin might cause as many problems as it is supposed to prevent. The HeartCenter online recommends not taking an aspirin if you have high blood pressure. Another recently discovered aspirin side effect is aspirin-induced asthma, which could effect up to 21% of all those who regularly take it or other NSAIDs. This discovery was based on 66 medical papers dating back to 1964.
According to a new study in the British Medical Journal, many people who regularly take aspirin still suffer from heart problems, giving birth to a new condition: aspirin resistance.
Doesn’t it make better sense to reduce your risk of heart disease by adopting a wellness lifestyle? With a healthy lifestyle there are no risks of side effects.
Talk to your doctor. Ask questions. Be empowered. Look up the facts. Don’t just take my word for it. this is your health we are talking about. No one is coming to save any of us. We have to do our own push ups.