Originally published February 17 2009
Low-Dose Aspirin Not Answer for Heart Health
by Dr. Phil Domenico
(NaturalNews) If you listen to the reigning experts from the pharmaceutical world, aspirin appears to be the cure-all for everything. Now, a new Yale University study suggests that low-dose aspirin may prevent liver damage caused by side effects of drugs, alcohol, and obesity. Specifically, aspirin reduced mortality caused by Tylenol overdose in mice. Given together with Tylenol, it offered significant protection, increasing survival from 22 to 43%. Other drugs that block inflammation were also shown to protect the liver (Imaeda et al., 2009). As usual, no mention was made of anti-inflammatory vitamins and minerals in this study.
A number of pharmaceutical industry-sponsored studies support the use of aspirin for prevention. Low-dose aspirin is positioned as a widely available, inexpensive, and relatively safe drug regimen. Its anti-clotting effect is used widely to prevent heart attacks, strokes and blood clot formation. Given immediately after a heart attack, aspirin is said to reduce heart damage and the risk of another heart attack. Now, low dose aspirin may be promoted to inhibit liver inflammation from drug use. Consider, however, that higher doses may increase liver toxicity.
Thus, from one single mouse study, the authors conclude that aspirin should be taken daily to help prevent or treat liver damage from a host of non-infectious causes. They even suggest that drugs previously discarded due to liver toxicity might be resurrected if combined with aspirin. Soon enough, a new OTC drug combining Tylenol and low-dose aspirin is likely to show up in drugstores.
However, aspirin is not the cure-all that the industry makes it out to be. Aspirin is not recommended for those with intolerance or resistance to nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, or by those with bleeding problems, asthma, kidney disease, peptic ulcers, diabetes, gout or gastritis. There is an increased risk of stomach bleeding when aspirin is taken with alcohol or warfarin. Up to 28% of patients who take low-dose aspirin to ward off heart attacks develop peptic ulcers, though often without symptoms (Yeomans et al., 2005). Factors that increase ulcer risk include old age or infection with H. pylori. Aspirin should also not be given to young people for colds or flu, as this has been linked with Reye`s syndrome. As with any drug, the benefits of aspirin should be carefully assessed before taking it for long periods.
Generally speaking, no drug is a solution for chronic degenerative disease. Aspirin is no exception, as it is in fact a metabolic poison. Indeed, aspirin`s side effects may far outweigh any benefits. Aspirin can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer (Schernhammer 2004), damage kidneys, and promote gastric bleeding. The WASH (Warfarin/Aspirin Study in Heart failure) study provided no evidence that aspirin is effective or safe in patients with heart failure. Indeed, there were trends toward a worse outcome among those taking aspirin, including heart failure (Cleland et al., 2004). It is likely that aspirin is not as safe as suggested. It may also not be as cheap as advertised, when calculating the costs of treatment for adverse effects. Perhaps the greatest detriment of aspirin is that it diverts attention away from treatments that are truly beneficial.
Nevertheless, it is not wise to go cold turkey with any medication. People who stop taking aspirin once they`ve been doing it for a while risk serious heart problems. More than 10% of people taking daily aspirin for heart reasons were hospitalized within one week of stopping the therapy. It`s a Catch-22 situation, since aspirin can increase the risk of heart damage, but stopping long-term therapy can do the same. Solutions? Start by asking your doctor to safely wean you off blood-thinners without shocking your system into a heart attack. In the future, take these drugs only when needed. There are many natural alternatives to aspirin that are heart healthy without the damaging side effects.
So, what are the best alternatives to aspirin? Simple lifestyle changes such as reducing refined carbohydrate and trans fat intake, eating more alkaline foods (low-carb veggies and fruits) and exercising can have a tremendously positive effect on your cardiovascular system. There are also natural supplements with blood-thinning properties, such as Fish Oil, Vitamin E, Nattokinase, and Bromelain. Among the spices, Basil is known for preventing blood clotting. Scientists caution not to take these potential blood thinners with aspirin, as the combination may thin the blood excessively. However, fish oil may safely enhance the anti-platelet effect of baby aspirin (Larson 2008). A basic supplement regimen for cardiovascular health includes a high quality multivitamin, natural mixed vitamin E and pharmaceutical grade fish oil. There are also many minerals and antioxidants from food and supplements that boost circulatory health. Remember to buy top shelf supplements, not the cheap drugstore junk produced by the pharmaceutical industry. The extra cost is well worth the investment. Remember also to stop taking all blood thinners at least a week before surgery to avoid internal bleeding.
Furthermore, be careful with excessive calcium supplementation. Too much calcium, without other nutrients to prevent its crystallization in the body, leads to hardening of the arteries and abnormal blood clotting. Reducing calcium intake to 800 mg daily combined with magnesium, vitamin K2, vitamin D3, boron and fish oil is by far a better bone building strategy that can also improve heart health. Unfortunately, most magnesium supplements come in the oxide form, which is not absorbed by the body. Take 100-200 mg magnesium daily as citrate or taurate (or another absorbable form) to soften calcium. Vitamin K2 (but not vitamin K1) has been shown to decalcify blood vessels (Beulens et al., 2008). Vitamin D3 should be on everyone`s list to improve calcium metabolism and reduce inflammation.
There are also special foods and supplements that prevent excessive blood clotting. Nattokinase is an enzyme made from fermented soybeans that can prevent or dissolve clots. It is comparable to aspirin in enhancing blood flow, without the side effects. Nattokinase provides longer lasting benefits than aspirin without the potential for abnormal bleeding. By increasing circulation, Nattokinase enhances tissue oxygenation and increases nutrient and supplement utilization. This, in turn, increases energy, supports vision, promotes bone and joint health, alleviates minor joint and muscle pains, and supports memory (Peng et al., 2005). Nattokinase in combination with appropriate lifestyle and dietary modifications can provide excellent protection from heart attacks.
Flavonol-rich cocoa drinks and dark chocolate also compare favorably with low-dose aspirin for healthy blood clotting (Mehrinfar 2008). Cocoa may be the preferred way to thin blood, since it tastes so good, and bolsters antioxidant defenses. In contrast, aspirin may reduce antioxidant activity by blocking Vitamin C entry into cells. Tomato extracts have also been shown to help thin blood, and may contribute to cardiovascular health. By reducing platelet activation, tomato contributes to a reduction in clotting events that lead to heart attack and stroke, as shown in clinical trials (O`Kennedy 2006). Garlic`s blood-thinning effect is part of an ancient tradition. It stems from garlic`s ability to lower blood triglyceride levels. Indeed, a wide variety of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds derived from fruits and vegetables work in synergy to promote cardiovascular health. Many of these phytochemicals are available as supplements, either separately or in synergistic blends.
If you insist on taking aspirin, consider that zinc and selenium may prevent aspirin`s impairment of antioxidant, liver and kidney function (Kesik et al., 2008). These antioxidant minerals can be found in ideal form and sufficient quantity in high quality multivitamins.
In conclusion, virtually all pharmaceutical approaches to health should be considered with caution. Drugs are not the best answer to improve health, and should not be anyone`s first choice. Furthermore, drug combinations are likely to cause more problems than they fix. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry seems more concerned with profit than with health and welfare. Even well meaning doctors typically have no training in nutrition, and are not the best source of information in many areas of health. With so many beneficial nutrients available to improve blood flow and reduce inflammation, wholesome food and supplements are the cornerstone to health. Those who would recommend drugs for these purposes, especially to counteract the toxic effects of other drugs, have another agenda altogether.
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About the authorDr. Phil Domenico is a nutritional scientist and educator with a research background in biochemistry and microbiology. Formerly an infectious disease scientist, he now works as a consultant for supplement companies and the food industry.
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