Aspirin is the great-grandfather of over-the-counter remedies. And it’s certainly well-known as an old standby for reducing fever, aches and pains.
In addition, science shows it can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease on a preventative basis.
In fact, in 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) began advising men between 45 to 79 years and women between 55 to 79 years to take a daily, low-dose aspirin to prevent heart attack and stroke — the No. 1 and No. 3 killers in the U.S. (Note: This recommendation doesn’t apply to anyone with a bleeding disorder.)
And, as I reported last month, a new, small study found that men and women with Type II diabetes may actually benefit more from taking two aspirin a day rather than just one.
But big pharma leads a persistent campaign to discredit aspirin in favor of newer, more expensive, more dangerous drugs for pain and fever. They also want more and more patients to take dangerous cholesterol-lowering statin drugs ¾ instead of safe and effective aspirin ¾ to lower their cardiovascular disease risk.
So, I can’t say I’m that surprised when a recent study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that most people have failed to get the message about the cardiovascular benefits of aspirin.
Doctors fail to recommend simple prevention tip
For this study, researchers analyzed data from 2007 to 2015 on about 89,000 men and women (all without bleeding disorders).
Only 43 percent followed the USPSTF’s advice to take a daily aspirin. And rates weren’t any better among those with high blood pressure, a history of smoking, and high cholesterol (which isn’t a cardiovascular disease risk factor anyway, in my view).
Furthermore, they learned that after the 2009 USPSTF recommendation, aspirin use actually declined from 45 percent to 40 percent among people at low risk. For people with medium risk, it declined 66 percent to 62 percent. And for people with high risk, it declined from 76 percent to 73 percent.
Last year, USPSTF even updated its recommendations. They now advise daily aspirin for adults 50 to 59 with a 10 percent or higher risk of heart attack. The new advice doesn’t apply to people in their 60s, due to concerns about increased bleeding risk with older ages. The USPSTF is still reviewing evidence for people under 50 (with lower risk of heart attack) and over 70 (with higher risk of bleeding).
So, why aren’t people taking a simple daily aspirin to lower their heart attack risk?
For one, most people who haven’t had a heart attack visit a primary care physician ¾ and not a cardiologist ¾ for treatment. And perhaps these physicians aren’t caught up on the latest science. (Which, by the way, is not a good excuse.)
Second, I have long suspected that the periodic “fake headlines,” trumpeting one supposed problem or another about aspirin, often prompts primary care physicians to question the efficacy of aspirin.
Instead, they recommend other drugs for pain and fever that are either more expensive, like ibuprofen…or useless and downright dangerous, like acetaminophen.
Doctors who have been around for a while may recall that, before some of the newer pain drugs, they used to recommend taking up to 20 to 25 aspirin daily for patients with arthritis. That doesn’t sound like a very dangerous drug to me. Of course, there are many effective, natural remedies for arthritis that don’t involve drugs. In addition, these remedies address the cause of the pain ¾ and not just the symptoms.
When it comes to heart disease prevention, we know primary care physicians certainly promote statins. This misguided advice puts millions of men and women unnecessarily on a dangerous drug that causes a host of side effects. Plus, the science shows that statins don’t prevent heart attacks or strokes.
In my view, you are better off taking more aspirin and fewer prescription drugs for pain and for heart disease. And the next time your doctor starts bullying you about taking a statin drug, ask why he or she isn’t recommending aspirin instead.
Last but not least…
As you look ahead to celebrating the New Year on Sunday night, remember, aspirin can help safely manage a hangover if you happen to overindulge. And if that happens to be the case, refer to the December issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter, where I share with you my natural hangover “cocktail.” (And if you’re not yet a subscriber to my monthly newsletter, now is a perfect time to get started.)
“Contemporary Primary Prevention Aspirin Use by Cardiovascular Disease Risk: Impact of US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations, 2007-2015: A Serial, Cross-sectional Study,” Journal of the American Heart Association (jaha.ahajournals.org) 10/3/2017