It’s been known for some time that a daily low-dose aspirin can help to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes. Now, newer evidence adds cancer prevention to the potential benefits of a daily aspirin routine.
The new findings were announced at a seminar in London last week by The Aspirin Foundation, whose expert panel of doctors presented the pros and cons of daily popping what is possibly the world’s oldest, cheapest, most widely used non-prescription drug.
So what’s the downside? Well, not aspirin itself, but doctors, according to those advancing the case for aspirin. Across the UK most GPs are apparently reluctant to prescribe acetylsalicylic acid q.d. (the technical name for aspirin daily) for fear of it causing bleeds from gastrointestinal ulcers or, much more rare and serious, cerebral bleeds.
Yet there is a strong suspicion among aspirin advocates, soon to be empirically tested, that aspirin itself doesn’t cause the stomach bleeds at all. The culprit, they believe, is the bacterial infection called helicobacter pylori. The assumption is that if you eradicate the infection, the risk of stomach bleeds goes with it – regardless of whether aspirin is ingested daily or not.
This theory will now be put to the test. Over 40,000 daily-aspirin-takers across the UK will now be tested for the H Pylori bacteria. Those who don’t have the infection will be monitored to see if they still get stomach bleeds. If it’s shown as suspected that aspirin is innocent and H Pylori is guilty, then patients with the infection can be offered antibiotics to rid their risk of stomach bleeds – whilst keeping on course with the aspirin.
Also, the tiny risk of cerebral bleeds, say the pro-aspirin doctors, can be significantly reduced by testing and treating for high blood pressure. Of course, they’ll always be some patients for whom aspirin should be avoided on medical grounds – which is why it’s always best to check with a GP first before becoming an aspirin adherent.
So if a daily aspirin can help reduce heart attacks, strokes and cancers, without any significant downsides, the case may soon be overwhelming for most people aged 50+ to choose the white pill and hope to live forever – or at least possibly longer than they might have done otherwise. Even if GP’s aren’t yet fully convinced, the trend seems clear. Over one-third of our seniors already take a junior aspirin a day in the hope of living longer.
More information: The Aspirin Foundation
© Copyright Jon Danzig 2012