Aspirin is a non-steroidal ant-inflammatory drug. It is in a class of drugs called salicylates, and works by inhibiting the release of chemicals in the body that cause pain aid inflammation. In addition to its use for acute conditions such as headache, fever or period pain, small doses of aspirin are often used to prevent heart attacks and strokes in high risk individuals. Aspirin has a blood thinning effect, and in this way may reduce the chance of a blood clot blocking a blood vessel and causing a heart attack or stroke. For this purpose aspirin is taken in a smaller dose, usually l00 mg. Popular brands include Astrix, Cartia and Cardiprin.

However, aspirin is not without potential side effects, and there are questions as to whether it really reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke at all. Possible side effects of aspirin include upset stomach, abdominal cramps, skin rash, allergic skin reactions, and it contributes to the development of leaky gut syndrome; making food allergies more likely to develop. A potential serious side effect of aspirin is gastrointestinal bleeding. According to Dr John Reckless, chairman of Heart UK, “If you put the average older patient on aspirin in one year, one person in 262 would have a significant gastrointestinal bleed in that one year”. One possible symptom of gastrointestinal bleeding is black or bloody stools. If you experience this symptom it is vital you see your doctor as soon as possible.

The Women’s Health Study, which ran for ten years found that regular use of low dose aspirin does not prevent first heart attacks in women younger than 65. The group of women who took 100 milligrams of aspirin every other day was no less likely to have a heart attack than the group taking a placebo. Each group had approximately 20, 000 participants. Most previous studies showing aspirin to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes were done on men. The women in the study who took aspirin had a forty percent greater chance of suffering severe gastrointestinal bleeding, and they also experienced more minor bleeding and bruising. Interestingly, the incidence of hemorrhagic stroke was greater in the women who took aspirin. This is the type of stroke caused by bleeding, not blockage due to a blood clot. This makes sense since aspirin reduces the ability of the blood to clot. Therefore, if you are a woman without significant risk of heart disease, it is not recommended you take aspirin as a preventative.

An interesting study called “The warfarin/aspirin study in heart failure” was published in the American Heart Journal. Patients with congestive heart failure are considered to be at increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. This particular study involved 279 patients who were diagnosed with heart failure that required medication with diuretics. The patients were divided into three groups, aspirin therapy, warfarin therapy, and no blood thinning therapy. The results of the study showed no health benefits from aspirin or warfarin to these patients; there was no difference in deaths, or non-fatal heart attacks or strokes. Significantly more patients taking aspirin were hospitalized because of worsening heart failure. The conclusion of this study was “Antithrombotic therapy in patients with heart failure is not evidence based but commonly contributes to polypharmacy “. This means that there are no proven benefits to taking blood thinning medications in patients with heart failure, and they increase the risk of side effects from adverse drug interactions.

A daily aspirin may reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in some individuals. However there are much safer and healthier ways to thin your blood. The omega 3 fats found in fish oil, flaxseed oil and walnuts have a powerful blood thinning effect. All antioxidants help to thin the blood; you can obtain these through regularly consuming raw vegetable juices and garlic, and taking supplements of vitamin E. Do not take vitamin E, garlic or ginkgo biloba supplements if you are on blood thinning medication without consulting your doctor.


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