Aspirin – A Wonder Drug…

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This week our contributing writer Doctor Gifford-Jones talks about how this inexpensive little drug can be very valuable for heart conditions and diabetes.

How long does it take for good news to reach the public? It appears a long, long time. For several years the medical community has known of the multiple benefits of Aspirin. Yet, I still see patients whose lives could be extended by Aspirin who are not taking it. This is tragic when it can also help patients escape several deadly diseases.

The most recent example was a 55 year old woman who had been suffering from diabetes for 35 years. In addition, she was overweight, a bad combination for a heart attack. Yet, no one had told her she could decrease the risk of a coronary event by taking Aspirin.

It’s estimated that six million diabetics in North America are headed for needless complications. Because they are not taking what’s been called the drug of the century, “Aspirin”.

A report from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta contains shocking news. It claims that virtually 98 percent of diabetics should be taking Aspirin. But only 20 percent are.

Equally appalling, only 37 percent of diabetics who already have cardiovascular disease take Aspirin. This is disastrous neglect when it’s been known for years that diabetes triggers cardiovascular problems, coronary attack, kidney failure, blindness and gangrene of the legs.

Others are unaware of the finding of Australian epidemiologists in 1998. They reported that people who take Aspirin have a 40 percent less risk of developing colon cancer, one of the major malignancies.

Scientists at Jefferson Medical College also have good news for people who inherit a genetic propensity for colon cancer. Certain patients carry a gene mutation that makes them very likely to develop this disease.

Recent studies show that Aspirin suppresses the accumulation of these mutations and saves lives. This is an important finding as before this discovery nothing could be recommended to families with this genetic predisposition. Besides, in these days of expensive drugs Aspirin costs only a few cents.

Today with an aging population, a recent report from Holland is of vital interest to everyone. We all know that getting older is invariably fatal, but none of us wants to depart with Alzheimer’s disease. Dutch scientists have found that older individuals who took Aspirin regularly for at least two years were 80 percent less likely to develop this devastating mental disorder. Further studies will be needed to confirm this finding.

For several years the big news has been that the daily use of Aspirin prevents heart attack. In 1982, 22,071 physicians between 40 and 84 years of age were enrolled in a health study. Half of the doctors were placed on one adult sized Aspirin a day. The others received dummy pills. Researchers discovered that in the Aspirin treated group 47 percent showed a decreased number of heart attacks.

A daily Aspirin is even more vital for those who have already suffered a coronary and survived. Yet this news has not been heard by many patients.

Doctors at The Harvard Medical School examined the records of 10,942 doctor visits by patients with heart disease. They found that only 5 percent of these patients received Aspirin in 1980. It had increased to 26 percent in 1996.But it meant that 74 percent were still not taking this life-saving drug.

The power of Aspirin is its prevention of blood clots. We know that many coronary attacks are caused by the narrowing of arteries due to atherosclerosis. But in other instances coronary death occurs because small particles called platelets stick together forming a blood clot. Aspirin helps oil platelets and prevent this from happening.

I often see patients making another error. They’re taking a Tylenol pill every day thinking it has the same effects as Aspirin in preventing heart attack. Tylenol is a good painkiller. But it does not have the power of Aspirin in preventing blood clots. My advice is to ask your doctor whether you should consider taking a low dose coated Aspirin (81 milligrams) each day.

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