Aspirin has been hailed as ‘the mighty pill’, ‘wonder drug’, ‘miracle cure’, among a multitude of such praises. And it’s not all talk, many doctors suggest taking an aspirin a day to prevent heart-disease. Some are even turning to the drug in the hope of putting a stop to some types of cancer. But is this all too good to be true?
A Medical Breakthrough
In a study published in the journal PLOS One, researchers from the University of Southern California suggested that every high-risk American over age 50 should take a lose-dose of aspirin a day. Doing so would add a significant amount of quality years to their life.
So much so that at least 900,000 people would be added to the population until 2036, and healthcare costs would be reduced by almost USD 700 billion.
Well, it has proven to be a great preventive measure for heart-attacks, because of its powerful ability to thin blood.
You see, blood contains tiny fragments called platelets. These cells play an important role in blood clotting. However, when they get stuck together because of a variety of reasons including heredity-risk or unhealthy lifestyles, this could lead to the development of cardiovascular disease.
When that happens, the platelets cause clots that block ateries, triggering heart attacks.
Here’s where aspirin works wonders. It has a demonstrated ability to thin the blood, therefore reducing the clustering of platelets and preventing attacks.
But it isn’t just useful for preventing heart-attacks. Scientists are also exploring aspirin’s interaction with cancer.
A major study carried out by researchers in the US and Europe found that taking aspirin daily for at least ten years can reduce cancer risk. The ground-breaking findings show that after the first five years, stomach, oesophageal and colorectal cancer are cut by about a third.
The Lancet, a top medical journal, also supports the findings. Their studies show that small regular doses reduce the risk of many cancers by as much as 54%.
With all the good stuff, what’s the downside?
Just Wait a Minute…
Well, the most risky side-effect of regular aspirin popping is stomach bleeding.
That’s especially when it comes to those over the age of 75.
What’s more, a major international study found that even at low doses, aspirin is harmful, and gives almost no benefit for those who have not had a heart-attack or stroke.
Study co-author Dr Anne Murray warned, “We knew there would an increased risk of bleeding with aspirin, because there has always been… it (aspirin) did not decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, and there was an increase in the rate of death.”
In short, if there’s no reason to take aspirin, don’t take it, even as preventive measure.
The study’s results are not isolated.
Other studies have also led to the same conclusion: low-dose aspirin is too risky to be prescribed to those with an intermediate risk of heart disease.
That’s because it greatly increases the risk of gastric bleeding, a side-effect of aspirin’s blood-thinning function.
Best Bet Yet
But for the moment, there’s no other drug like it. And despite the controversy, it seems that the support for aspirin has not receded.
Massive government-supported trials are being conducted to determine if the drug is useful for elderly conditions like blindness, deafness and even dementia.
That’s because if a relatively inexpensive pill could be the solution to many diseases, then healthcare spending could be transferred to other avenues. So, it’s a win-win, you think?