Aspirin

  1. Heart risk for aspirin quitters

    Despite what you've heard from decades of TV commercials, the last thing your heart needs to help it keep beating is a daily dose of aspirin.

    But if you've already started on the so-called "aspirin therapy," don't stop -- not right away anyway, because a new study finds that quitting could bring on a heart attack.

    Researchers tracked 39,513 patients between 50 and 84 years old who had suffered a heart attack and were taking daily aspirin in the hopes of preventing a second one.

    The researchers found that those who stopped their aspirin therapy were 60 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack over three years than those who kept taking their pills.

    The researchers say the attacks were nonfatal -- but who knows what kind of hidden damage they did inside the heart, or if those second attacks set the stage for a third and possibly fatal event down the road.

    The researchers wrote in BMJ that the risks are "small," but I'd say they're not small enough to provide any degree of lasting comfort. The study found four extra heart attacks per 1,000 aspirin quitters.

    That's good enough for the researchers, who concluded that the benefits still outweigh the risks -- but let's not get carried away here, because there are much safer ways to protect your heart.

    Studies have found that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can not only keep your heart beating -- they can also pull off a few tricks that aspirin can't touch.

    For starters, fish oil can lower your triglycerides, boost good cholesterol, and reduce overall inflammation. It's also great for primary prevention, helping you to avoid that first heart attack. Aspirin, on the other hand, is actually worse. Studies have found almost no benefit to aspirin therapy for patients who've never suffered a heart attack.

    In one study, 3,350 men and women with a high risk of heart disease were given either aspirin or a placebo. Over eight years, there was no difference in heart attack or stroke risk.

    There is one area, however, where aspirin manages to distinguish itself, and it's a doozy: side effects.

    Regular aspirin use for any reason -- especially a daily dose for "therapy" -- can lead to serious and potentially deadly internal bleeding problems.

    Some studies have found that aspirin can increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke -- and a study just a couple of years back found that aspirin therapy causes tiny "microbleeds" in the brains of seniors.

    I don't call that micro anything -- that's maximum risk, especially for a senior.

  2. Avoid the "new" aspirin

    Aspirin just isn't that sexy anymore.

    The one-time wonder drug -- Bayer even uses "wonderdrug.com" to promote its nonsensical aspirin myths -- has fallen on hard times as Americans turn to more powerful painkillers.

    Heck, if you can't get your hands on hydrocodone and oxycodone at this point, you're just not trying hard enough.

    Not that you should be taking those, either -- but I'll get to that in a moment.

    First, I want to tell you about Bayer's attempt to reclaim its share of the painkiller pie with a new version of aspirin being sold in a flashy purple package.

    It's called Bayer Advanced Aspirin, and it promises relief in half the time of the old stuff thanks to new "micro-particles" that enter the blood more quickly.

    Is it true? Who knows -- but it sounds like a gimmick more than anything else, like color-changing labels on beer cans that tell you when the brew is cold.

    Even the study Bayer conducted has the hokum-meter spinning like crazy: The company only tested its new aspirin on patients who had oral surgery -- specifically, a wisdom tooth extraction.

    In that study -- which wasn't published, by the way -- patients who took the old aspirin didn't get relief for 100 minutes, while those who got new and improved aspirin started to feel better within 16 minutes... and were enjoying significant relief in 49 minutes.

    But again, these are oral surgery patients recovering from a procedure that can leave you feeling like you've taken a Mike Tyson punch to the jaw -- not the typical customer suffering from arthritis or headaches trying to choose a painkiller from the dozens of choices on the shelf of the local Target.

    All they'll see is the new slogan, "Extra Strength Pain Relief. Twice As Fast" and assume it applies to all pain... when, in fact, it might not.

    But really, they don't need to be in that aisle in the first place -- because you can get real relief from pain without over-the-counter meds or even the powerful prescription drugs so many turn to these days.

    White willow bark, for example, is the original aspirin. It's so closely related that it shouldn't be used by anyone with aspirin sensitivities -- but it's a better choice for anyone seeking natural relief.

    And if your pain is being caused by inflammation, be sure to take a daily dose of fish oil -- one of nature's most powerful anti-inflammatories.

    It's not new, or improved -- but it works just fine as is.

  3. Painkillers linked to penis problems

    Common painkillers may chase the aches away... but they might send something else along for the ride: Your sex life.
  4. Can aspirin really lower your cancer risk?

    Aspirin sales must need a boost. That's the only reason I can come up with to explain why researchers have suddenly returned to their one-a-day mantra. Only this time, they say aspirin could help you prevent cancer.
  5. Painkillers every day? No way!

    Researchers found that regular users of ibuprofen, naproxen and other painkillers were actually more likely to come down with dementia.
  6. Aspirin's hidden dangers

    A new study finds that elderly patients who take low doses of aspirin to deal with their heart disease have higher instances of very small bleeding in the brain.

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