There are a few things in society today that can be repeated with an almost mantra like quality when it comes to preventing heart attacks. The first is that we need to lower our intake of sodium. The curtains on this recommendation have recently been pulled back to reveal just how weak of a recommendation this is. However, not nearly as weak as the other strong recommendation.
For many years now Bayer and mainstream medicine have led you to believe that aspirin is good for our heart and will protect against heart attacks. While this may be true, the data is so weak as to be pointless.
There is, of course, concern over the dangers of aspirin. These principally focus on bleeding events such as ulcers and strokes. Rarely is it brought up that aspirin is suspected to increase the risk of pancreatic cancer as well.
So, as with any intervention, we need to balance the benefits with the risks. Take broccoli for example. It can lower your risk of any number of chronic diseases, and the strength of prevention of heart attacks is probably on par with aspirin. But the side effects! You know–the dangerous ones associated with broccoli intake like…I’m sure some will come to me in a minute….side effects of broccoli or on the tip of my tongue…Well, I’m sure I read about them all the time………
The point is that lifestyle changes have protective effects that far, far outweigh those of standard recommendations like avoiding salt and taking aspirin. But we seem to be so darn soft on these recommendations that I don’t think society really takes them seriously.
Getting back to the current study. Just how effective is aspirin at protecting a first heart attack? Are you ready for this?
Treat 1,000 people for 5 years. Do the math–this is an awful lot of money for Bayer… Ok, so after these 5 years we’ve probably prevented hundreds of heart attacks, right?
Wrong. 2.9 people will have been protected. Another 2.8 will experience major bleeds as a result of taking the aspirin. These numbers flat out suck and again highlight our society’s morbid obsession with picking out the really bad interventions like lowering salt intake, taking an aspirin and taking statins and putting them up on a pedestal rivaling Mount Olympus. All the while burying the real recommendations somewhere in the realm of Jules Verne