We love to shoot for the low hanging fruit when it comes to chronic disease management and prevention. Don’t avoid processed foods high in sodium–just by the same junk in a “low sodium” version. Don’t exercise too hard–a light 30 minute walk around the block is enough. Don’t avoid refined carbohydrates–just eat more whole grains.
You get the idea.
We seem fixated on the idea of making “easy” to make changes that have a really small impact on chronic disease. Can’t lower your cholesterol through lifestyle? This class of drugs will lower your risk of heart attacks by 1%. High blood pressure? Forget lifestyle, just take a beta blocker–you won’t lower your risk of stroke (actually increases risk) but you’ll have a better looking blood pressure to tell your friends.
Just how good is aspirin at preventing heart attacks? Treat 1,000 people with aspirin for 5 years and you prevent 2.9 heart attacks, although 2.8 of you will suffer a major bleeding episode as a result, leading to a net benefit of .1 person for every 1,000 treated. Or, for those of you who haven’t had a math class for several decades, you have to treat 10,000 people for 5 years to prevent a single heart attack.
Sounds like the only person the recommendations to take aspirin for your heart benefitted was Bayer.
So it’s a little money out of my pocket. At least there are no dangers associated with aspirin use. Unless, of course, you count these:
- Increased risk of pancreatic cancer
- Asprin use may make you more susceptible to gluten allergies.
- Increased risk of esophageal lesions and cancer
The list is probably longer, but these are a few of the studies I’ve reviewed over the years.
Thanks to this particular study, now we can add a new one.
Neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Almost 246% higher risk in regular users of aspirin.
So, if you’re one of the lucky 1 in 10,000 that avoided a heart attack by regular use of aspirin, then congratulations. If however, you’re in the group with everyone else, just hope that your eyesight is still intact as a result of taking a daily aspirin for a perceived lowered risk of having a heart attack.
If you are still taking aspirin to lower your risk of having a heart attack, is this choice because your doctor has recommended it, or because society general thinks that this will protect your heart?