Taking Daily Aspirin - Are There Risks Involved?
Taking a daily aspirin
had been touted as a preventative measure against heart attack and some forms of cancer. Your doctor may have told you that taking a low dose baby aspirin everyday could prolong your life!
Aspirin has received so much publicity over the last hundred years, that most people assume it’s harmless. Universal acceptance by the government and medical community doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you though.
The Origins of Aspirin
In 2004, 40 million pounds of aspirin (200 tabs for every man, woman, and child) were produced in the US alone. Aspirin has been blindly accepted, despite the risks involved with taking it.
Aspirin has been around since 400 BC Hippocrates reportedly prescribed the bark and leaves of the willow tree for pain and fevers. The Romans also utilized the natural plant remedy. In early 1800, a German chemist created salicylic acid from the natural compound Salicin, and in 1897, a Bayer chemist synthesized a stable form of acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin.
The product launched in 1899 and quickly became the worlds #1 selling drug. In 1915, there was a push to sell it over the counter. (OTC without a prescription) As an interesting side note, Bayer also had some success with another prescription drug, called Heroin! The company lost control of both trademarks as part of the settlements after WWI.
The synthetic active compound found in aspirin, acetylsalicylic acid, is NOT the same compound found in white willow bark, which is called salicin. It provides many of the same analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits that aspirin does, but it does so without producing bleeding or other side effects associated with aspirin. The primary benefit attributed to routine daily aspirin, has been the prevention of heart attack. The secondary claims are that it can also help prevent some forms of cancer.
Long term routine daily aspirin use may lower the risk of second heart attacks or strokes caused by blockages, but it doesn’t appear to reduce the risk of dying from these problems. It may reduce non-fatal heart attacks, but not fatal heart attacks. Also, the benefits of taking daily aspirin for men are far greater than the benefits for women.
Those benefits for men appear to be limited to men with previous heart problems, who have low or normal blood pressure, not high blood pressure. Those with high blood pressure do not experience the benefits and they also have a higher incidence of serious bleeding problems.
Despite this, it is estimated that over 30 million people in the US are now taking a low dose daily aspirin in an effort to prevent heart attacks and about 80 billion aspirin tablets are taken every year. The FDA has also given Bayer permission to advertise that aspirin may be
effective in reducing the risk of heart attack. The keyword here is ‘may’. Seems like a slippery slope and the public must listen carefully to every word! Its clear that the pharmaceutical industry wants to sell you drugs but taking daily aspirin may do you more harm than good!
Risks Associated With Daily Aspirin
Numerous problems are associated with long term daily aspirin use. Two of the most publicized risks are gastrointestinal bleeding and stroke. Many authorities feel that the risk of these and other problems have been grossly understated.
The anti-inflammatory benefits of taking a daily aspirin, has been shown to reduce the incidence of certain cancers, but recently aspirin was linked to pancreatic cancer. In a long running US study, the health habits of 88,378 female nurses were documented, beginning in 1980. An epidemiologist with Harvard Medical School analyzed the use of daily aspirin and the incidence of pancreatic cancer among these women.
At the start of the study, all nurses were cancer free but by 1998, 161 of these women had developed pancreatic cancer. Those who were taking two or more daily aspirin weekly for 20 years, increased their risk of developing pancreatic cancer by 58 percent, compared to those not taking it. Women who took 14 or more tabs per week had an increased risk of 86 percent.
Bayer called these findings inconclusive. Others have called for additional studies but are holding fast that the benefits far outweigh the risks. Consider that pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of death in the US with the lowest survival rates of all major forms of cancers. A five year survival rate is only 5 percent. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 30,700 individuals will develop the cancer in a given year and of those 30,000 will die from the disease. Anyone who takes daily aspirin should at least be aware of these findings.
Regular daily aspirin use has been linked to an increase in macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness for older people. The long term use of aspirin (10 years or longer) is also associated with a 44 percent increase in the most disabling form of cataracts, known as posterior subcapsular cataracts.
A popular intervention for heart attack has been angioplasty, which is a procedure that involves using a catheter to open clogged arteries that supply the heart. Following the procedure, patients are routinely told to take a daily aspirin for the rest of their lives. Many times, if blood pressure is also a problem, (which is typical with heart patients), patients are also prescribed ACE inhibitors, which help lower blood pressure. The mortality rate among those taking both inhibitors and aspirin after angioplasty was 3.7 percent compared to only 1.2 percent of those taking aspirin alone. In other words, mixing aspirin with ACE inhibitors more than tripled the death rate.
GERD (acid reflux) occurs when stomach acids, (bile and other digestive juices), leak up from the stomach into the esophagus. Acid reflux results in severe heartburn, chest pain, or burning, and can eventually lead to ulcerations and changes in the esophagus, which can lead to cancer. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have been a major cause of acid reflux.
The North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology found that GERD was a growing problem in children, especially teenagers. NSAIDS, which include aspirin, showed up as one of the primary factors leading to reflux problems. Half of those with GERD problems, also reported a higher incidence of asthma symptoms or attacks that mimicked asthma.
Daily aspirin has been shown to directly trigger asthma attacks. One report stated that as many as 20 percent of all asthma attacks maybe aspirin induced. Patients who suffer from aspirin induced asthma display symptoms 20 minutes to two hours after taking it.
Symptoms can include upper airway congestion, lower airway inflammation, runny nose, and skin eruptions. Nasal polyps may also develop over time. As many as 50 percent of those who have aspirin induced asthma, have chronic, severe, corticosteroid-dependent asthma. Facial swelling is also a symptom of this type of asthma. If you suffer from asthma, simply eliminating products that contain aspirin or other NSAIDS is an easy way to find out if these drugs are your triggers.
Researchers at Tel Aviv Medical Center found that daily aspirin, (in doses of 75 – 325 mg.), could have a significant adverse effect on renal (kidney) function in elderly adults. After only two weeks in a study of 100 elderly patients that were placed on daily aspirin, researchers began to document decreased kidney function. In 72 percent of the patients, the urinary excretion of creatinine decreased and in 65 percent of the patients, uric acid excretion decreased. Both decreases are known signs of kidney impairment. After the aspirin was discontinued, kidney function began to improve but 48 percent of these patients experienced some residual impairment up to three weeks later.
Taking an aspirin a day can also create liver problems that are well documented. Look for warning labels on the popular NSAIDS you might be using. (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen,etc.) Using NSAIDS in combination with three or more alcoholic drinks per day, can significantly increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and liver damage.
There are numerous reports of those using NSAIDS in an attempt to cure hangovers, who end up with liver failure. Even more prevalent, yet less publicized, are cases where liver enzyme tests are elevated in seemingly healthy people. Diagnosing the problem can be perplexing. Many times patients are put through rigorous testing to rule out hepatitis, alcoholism, gallbladder problems, fatty liver, and other causes. Often enough, it’s discovered that the elevated enzymes are the result of using long term NSAIDS or daily aspirin.
As widespread as regular aspirin use has become, it would be impossible to determine just how many gastrointestinal problems, ulcerations, anemia's, and abnormal blood counts are related to it’s use. Daily aspirin can also cause ringing in the ears, hearing loss, allergic reactions, vomiting, diarrhea, vertigo, and hallucinations.
There are some good uses for aspirin however. Applied topically, it’s a great way to remove warts and remove impurities in the skin. It also can be used as a short term pain reliever, but should only be taken occasionally.
You can also opt to take white willow bark powder, (called salicin) that's harvested right from the tree and is not synthesized. This seems like a much better option than risking your life taking a inorganic version!
People have forgotten that aspirin is a poison. Ingesting between 10 – 30 grams of aspirin can be fatal. Accurate reporting procedures aren’t in place so no exact number is known, but the figures range from around 8,000 – 14,000+ deaths yearly. How many additional deaths and disabilities are caused indirectly from daily aspirin are not known, such as severe gastrointestinal bleeding or stroke. The FDA has shown little, if any interest in pursuing it.
Always consult your physician before using natural remedies, especially for anyone with preexisting conditions or anyone currently taking prescription medications. Although many efforts are made to ensure that the advice given on this site is professionally sound, the advice is not intended to replace a mutual relationship with a medical provider.
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