An Aspirin or an Apple a Day?

Many adults struggling to be healthy take an aspirin every day or every other day to reduce their risk for heart disease and cancer. Others avoid it because it’s known to increase internal bleeding and your risk for life-threatening medical “events” like hemorrhagic strokes – the worst kind of stroke (cholesterol-lowering drugs also increase this risk).

A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients with no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) taking low-dose (81 and 100 mg) aspirin daily or every other day had a minuscule reduction in their risk of nonfatal heart attacks over six years and an even more minuscule reduction in their cancer risk.

HOW Minuscule?

Only 1 in 162 such people avoided a nonfatal heart attack and only 1 in 247 avoided death from cancer over the six-year study period.  You may think that’s better than nothing, but 1 in 73 people so treated had one or more significant bleeding events during the study period.

That means that over twice as many people were harmed as helped by their aspirin therapy – which is why the study’s authors concluded that  “Routine use of aspirin for primary prevention is not warranted”.  And here you thought you were being dutiful and health-conscious by faithfully following your aspirin regimen in an effort to be healthy.

Medical Confusion Abounds

Don’t feel too badly if you’re confused by all the conflicting reporting – and medical opinions – about aspirin therapy. One of the confounders is its use for the prevention of heart disease and cancer – the “primary prevention” that was the focus of this study – vs. its use for advanced disease like a prior heart attack  or heart failure.

Because the risk of bleeding with aspirin use is thought to be outweighed by its anti-clotting benefits for those who’ve already suffered a heart attack or (non-hemorrhagic) stroke, many people – including many doctors – believe it must be so for people who haven’t suffered such an event.

This study suggests otherwise, along with many before it. What’s a good trade-off in risk vs. benefit isn’t the same for healthy people as it is for those with advanced disease.

This is true for all medical interventions – and many non-medical interventions as well.

That’s what’s so troubling about the over-medicalizing of America that’s currently going on. And it’s not just understaffed nursing homes drugging elderly patients into compliant stupors with anti-psychotic medications.

It’s antibiotics for viral conditions that don’t respond to antibiotics…

…and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs for those with normal cholesterol…

…and even for overweight children despite no evidence of its safety with decades of use…

…and a host of other examples discussed in some of our forthcoming books.

Flat-Out Wrong?

An even more recent study in the same medical journal agrees with this assessment that many medications used today for the prevention of cardiovascular symptoms simply aren’t proven and may actually increase mortality.

According to a report at the cardiology website, the heart.org:

“The message from such trials…is that established preventive practices (with medications)… might be flat-out wrong.”

So it’s not just me who’s questioning established medical practices that persist despite evidence of their wrong-headedness. Many in the medical profession have similar misgivings – and clinical trials to back them up.

An Apple a Day…Really?


Well, you’ll need more than an apple a day, of course, to be healthy and stay healthy. But the flavonoids and other phytonutrients in apples and other fruits and vegetables have long been known to reduce CVD risk. The American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control, among others, recognize this.

According to a study reported on at wikianswers.com*:

“Dr. Victor Fulgoni analyzed adult food consumption data collected in the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey — the government’s largest food consumption and health database…

“Adults who eat apples and applesauce and drink apple juice have a significantly reduced risk of metabolic syndrome — defined as having three or more of the associated symptoms related to cardiovascular risk, including elevated blood pressure, increased waist size and elevated C-reactive protein levels…

“The study found those who consumed apple products had a 30 percent decreased likelihood for elevated diastolic blood pressure and a 36 percent decreased likelihood for elevated systolic blood pressure and a 21 percent reduced risk of increased waist circumference…

“Additionally, adult apple-product consumers had significantly reduced C-reactive protein levels — a biomarker of inflammation used to detect increased risk for diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. “

* http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_are_apples_good_for_us#ixzz1tjRPnmxH

All-in-all, these are pretty impressive – even prescription-strength – results.

And you don’t need a prescription – or a doctor’s visit – to start getting such results for you and your family.

Which is why we decided to name our home page for this “Be Healthy” lifestyle section of OurHealthcareSucks.com “Better Than Drugs”. You can check it out here for more on the subject.

This article is for informational and educational purposes only.
It does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied upon as such.

John Lynch: John Lynch was founder and CEO of Medical Diagnostics, Inc. - twice named to Business Week's "Best Small Companies" in America. He's since founded MedSmart Members to publish consumer health education publications.
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