The Many Aspects of Aspirin
By Robert G. Graw, Jr., M.D.
We all have it in our medicine cabinets, but aspirin is not as simple as it looks. Since its arrival on the scene in 1863, aspirin has been used for everything from easing the common headache to preventing heart attacks and strokes. You may also know that aspirin has been used to revive dead car batteries, remove perspiration stains and prolong the life of cut flowers. Aspirin is so popular that it has a place in the Smithsonian Institution.
Whatever its use, this popular pill has intrigued researchers for years, making it the subject of continual study as scientists evaluate its potential to improve the overall quality for life for seniors and others. The most common alignment between aspirin and health is heart attack and stroke prevention. Aspirin is also commonly used for pain relief, and to reduce swelling, redness and fever caused by arthritis, infections and headaches. Aspirin may be prescribed by a physician for the treatment of gout. Aspirin has even been studied for use in treating colon, breast and other kinds of cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
The number of U.S. adults who take aspirin regularly has risen in recent years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Heart health, including avoiding a heart attack, heart disease or stroke, seems to be the main reason for this increase. Regular aspirin use is recommended by the American Heart Association for people at high risk or those with a history of heart attacks or strokes. It is also recommended by the American Diabetes Association for adults with diabetes.
Like the technology we see all around us, aspirin is rapidly evolving as a pill. A recent advance in aspirin is the no-swallow tablet that dissolves in the mouth instead of the stomach, reducing the risk of ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding. This type of aspirin enters the blood stream within three to five minutes, instead of the thirty minutes to an hour that a regular aspirin takes. A sugar-free aspirin product is being developed for diabetics. Physicians are also learning that changing the dose of aspirin, in whatever form, can have an effect on a person’s health.
Before jumping into an aspirin routine, it’s important to be informed. Aside from figuring out whether the common “one tablet daily” plan is right for you, it is critical to periodically review your aspirin use with your physician so that you do not experience any negative or unintended effects. This is especially true for seniors taking one or more medications with which the aspirin may interact. Risks of taking aspirin can include bleeding which can, on occasion, be life-threatening. Some people develop allergies to aspirin and need to work with their physicians to find other alternatives.
As always, the most important rule to keep in mind is that good health, especially as we age, involves more than a pill. Be sure you lead a healthy lifestyle daily, do plenty of exercise, eat fruits and vegetables and get proper sleep. Avoid smoking, drinking and other habits that compromise your health. That way, when you and your physician decide on an aspirin regimen that is right for you, your body and the aspirin will have the best chance of interacting in an optimum manner for your good health.
Dr. Graw is a practicing physician and the founder and CEO of Righttime Medical Care. He can be reached at [email protected]
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