Stop with the Aspirin!

Most Americans over the age of 50 believe that aspirin should be taken daily to help prevent heart disease and strokes. They hear this from their MD, and it’s backed up by articles in many highly esteemed medical journals People or Cosmo.



Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is a synthetic derivative of the salicylate found in willow bark ...and it's a potent blood thinner. For decades, we’ve heard that it’s blood-thinning attributes can prevent recurrent heart attacks and strokes, and that there’s a health benefit for primary prevention in otherwise healthy people as well. In other words, everyone should be taking it prophylactically. Some even claim that it can reduce the risk of colon cancer.


I’ve always had my doubts, and - surprise! - found out that much of the science and research behind such claims was primarily funded by Bayer - who just happens to be the world’s largest producer of aspirin. And I mean LARGE: “Aspirin” is still Bayer's registered trademark in more than 80 countries, and produces 40 thousand metric tons of aspirin annually worldwide. The company's total revenues in 2017 stood at some $41 billion dollars.



Well, three LARGE meta-analysis studies done in just the last few years

have put a LARGE dent in the it’s LARGE health claims.





In 2013, the ARRIVE trial (Aspirin to Reduce Risk of Initial Vascular Events)  - a large study of 12,546 patients - concluded that there was “no effect on all-cause death or the cardiovascular outcome” with aspirin use. 


Two years later, the ASPREE trial (Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly), a study involving 19,000 subjects showed that “the benefit of aspirin may be offset by adverse effects, such as those related to its potential to cause bleeding.”


Finally, the August 26, 2018 the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of the ASCEND trial (A Study of Cardiovascular Events in Diabetes) - which meticulously followed 15,480 patients taking aspirin - and concluded that aspirin “did not statistically lower the risk of heart disease,” but in fact “caused major bleeding events” and that “any absolute benefits were largely counterbalanced by the bleeding hazard.”

Three strikes and're out?


Primary among the problems were the dramatic increases in strokes caused by bleeding, but also some seriously unhealthy-sounding things like intracranial hemorrhage, sight-threatening bleeding events in the eye, gastrointestinal bleeding, and “other serious bleeding” occurred.


“If you are healthy, there seems little to gain - and a fair amount to lose.” -  says Yale cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, MD about these studies.


But the most damning was looking just at all-cause mortality, the rate was higher in the aspirin than the control group.


And the main culprit: CANCER. The rate of new cancer diagnoses and death from cancer was higher among those taking aspirin compared with those on placebo. This runs counter to much of what we've been told about aspirin in the past, no matter how uber-cute those trial names are. And since the death certificate will list cancer as the cause, it will further obscure the real cause.


What we have here are multiple studies, in multiple moderate-risk populations, that all reach the same conclusion: Aspirin has no role in the primary prevention of heart disease or stroke, and may increase other potentially fatal risks.


So, once again, the Hippocratic Oath of, “First, Do No Harm” seems to have been tossed aside for profits.



In March 2019, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines declaring healthy adults with an average risk for heart disease receive no overall benefit from a daily aspirin. They reclassified it as “low-value medical care.”

The term has been coined to classify tests and medications that are ineffective and provide no benefit to a patient’s medical care. But the fact is, low-value care can actually expose patients to harm, shift the focus away from beneficial care and result in unnecessary costs to the patient and the health-care system.


If you weren’t aware, health-care systems are notoriously slow to integrate new research into clinical practice. A landmark study out of the University of Missouri in 2000 showed there is a time lag of 17 years (!) before research is implemented into regular care.


My recommendations: if you’re taking aspirin to prophylactically “thin your blood” ...STOP IMMEDIATELY.  If you’ve had a stroke, don’t just assume aspirin is your only option. For instance, ginger is an anti-inflammatory spice that may stop blood clotting. It contains the natural acid called salicylate, of which aspirin is a synthetic derivative.


Here are some others:

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