Aspirin's a questionable choice for occasional pain relief... but it's a really bad option when it comes to heart health.
Those little pills in medicine cabinets across the nation come with far more risks than most people realize. And as the latest research shows, they don't work very well, either.
Researchers studied 3,350 men and women at high risk of heart disease. One group was given 100 mg of aspirin per day, and the rest were given a placebo.
Over an average of more than eight years, there was no difference in heart attacks (fatal and non-fatal), stroke or even revascularization surgery in the two groups. There was also no difference in angina or a form of leg pain linked to peripheral artery disease called claudication.
In short, the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found no benefit from aspirin whatsoever.
That's perfectly consistent with numerous studies in recent years knocking aspirin therapy... but sometimes, old habits are hard to break, even for doctors (especially if they're the kind paid to advocate aspirin on TV... but that's another story).
One major analysis of six studies found the potential benefit of aspirin was so small that it was essentially meaningless--and certainly offset by aspirin's famous side effects, like ulcers and internal bleeding problems.
And that's not all. Aspirin's been around a long time, but we still don't know everything about it--or its problems. We're just learning now that aspirin and other painkillers can cause hearing loss in men.
A study in the American Journal of Medicine finds that aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen all appeared to increase the risk of hearing loss--especially in men between 45 and 50 years old.
And yet another study last year found aspirin increases the risk of "microbleeds" in the brains of seniors. And really, any bleeding in the brain at all--no matter how "micro"-- is something you want to avoid.
The message is there, and it's a pretty clear one... but it's not getting out. Sales of low-dose aspirin marketed for supposed heart benefits are up 12 percent since 2005, with more than 44 million containers sold last year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
That's 44 million stunningly bad health decisions.
One study found that it takes around 2 million aspirin tablets to prevent just one heart attack--but the odds of side effects are much higher. One in 15 aspirin takers experience them, and 1 in 556 will die of aspirin-related complications.
There's an easy answer to this one, and it's in the volumes and volumes of research that proves that aspirin therapy is both dangerous and ineffective.