Thursday, August 7, 2014

What to Do About Aspirin?

Millions of people who have been to their doctor for a routine physical have been told the past few years to take a baby aspirin (81 mg) every day to prevent heart attacks and stroke.  Aspirin commercials and the medical profession have gone all out to teach this.  The FDA this past week issued a statement reversing this well rehearsed advice.  They now say that aspirin, while it may be indicated after a stroke or heart attack, it does nothing to prevent heart attacks or stroke.  Therefore, the risk from aspirin to cause bleeding in the brain or stomach outweighs the benefit.  Consequently, you should not be taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack.  Seemed clear enough.

A day later, out of Europe, comes very convincing evidence that aspirin is strong prevention against cancer - especially gastrointestinal tract cancers.  So, what does one do with this confusing duel of studies about aspirin?

Here is a little table to help you decide.

You should PROBABLY NOT TAKE ASPIRIN (check with your doctor to be sure.)
If you are allergic to it.
If you bruise easily.
If you have a blood clotting problem or you have difficulty getting cuts to stop bleeding.
If you have stomach or duodenal ulcers.
If you are taking blood thinners.

You MIGHT BENEFIT FROM ASPIRIN (check with your doctor to be sure):
If you have a family history of stomach or colorectal cancer in your family.
If you have a bad headache.
If you have a fever, aches, or pains.
If you have some kind of inflammatory condition (e.g. arthritis)

You PROBABLY RISK YOUR HEALTH TAKING ASPIRIN (check with your doctor to be sure):
If you are trying to avoid getting a heart attack or stroke.
If you think you are avoiding cancer (when all other cancer risk factors are low or absent.)

In every instance, it is best to check with your doctor.  About 7500 (non-suicidal) deaths per year occur due to aspirin.  It can cause hemorrhaging, so you should respect the fact that it is a drug, like all the others out there.  Don't take it if you don't have a clear need and indication to be taking it. 

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