MyHealth-Store Posting Page
Thursday, February 28, 2013
As seen in Whole Health Insider:
Aspirin is one of the most widely used over-the-counter medications, with an estimated 120 billion tablets taken each year.1 Not only can it be an effective remedy for headaches, body aches and fever, but millions of people at high risk of heart attack due to atherosclerosis use daily aspirin therapy as a preventative measure, thanks to aspirin’s anticoagulant properties.
Because it’s so commonly used, many people assume that aspirin is pretty safe. And they’re right—aspirin does have a relatively good safety profile, especially when compared to other drugs on the market that have a myriad of toxic side effects, like statins. But that doesn’t mean aspirin use is completely free of risk.
The side effects most people associate with regular aspirin use include gastrointestinal bleeding, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and hemorrhagic stroke caused by a burst blood vessel. And now recent research has uncovered a lesser known, but very eye-opening risk to long-term aspirin use—macular degeneration.
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In a study published in December 2012, researchers followed nearly 5,000 participants (aged 43 to 86 years) for more than 20 years. These participants, part of the Beaver Dam Eye Study, received eye examinations every five years. Results showed 512 cases of early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and 117 cases of late AMD over the course of the study.
Additionally, at each exam, participants were asked if they had regularly used aspirin at least twice a week for more than three months. Researchers found that regular aspirin use 10 years prior to eye examination was associated with late AMD, with estimated incidence of 1.76 percent, compared to 1.03 percent in non-aspirin users. Researchers concluded that these associations, though small, were statistically significant.2
Interestingly, regular aspirin use 10 years prior to eye examination was significantly associated with the “wet” form of AMD, which accounts for 10 percent of all AMD cases, but is responsible for the majority of functional blindness attributed to the disease.
An even more recent study published in January 2013 confirmed this aspirin/AMD link. In this study, researchers analyzed data from a 15-year Australian population-based cohort.
At the beginning of the study, 2,389 participants completed a detailed questionnaire that assessed aspirin use, heart disease status and AMD risk factors. In addition, they received four eye examinations during the 15-year study period.
After analyzing data, 63 (out of 257) regular aspirin users developed wet AMD—an astounding 24.5 percent. Even after adjusting for other risk factors like age, sex, smoking, history of heart disease and body mass index, regular aspirin users still had a higher risk of developing wet AMD. Researchers concluded, “Regular aspirin use is associated with increased risk of incident neovascular [wet] AMD, independent of history of cardiovascular disease and smoking.”3
Alternatives to Aspirin
If you’re a regular aspirin user, you should get a thorough eye exam as soon as possible to determine your AMD status. This is extremely important because AMD often doesn’t show any symptoms until well after the condition has taken hold.
Even if your exam determines that your eyes are healthy and free of disease, we recommend discussing the cessation of regular aspirin therapy with your doctor. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural pain-relief and blood-thinning nutrients you can take that will not affect your eyes—or your gastrointestinal tract or ears for that matter.
One effective pain relief solution that you can find in most health food stores is white willow bark. In fact, aspirin was originally derived from the bark of this tree.
Its active ingredient, salicin, has been used for centuries to relieve all sorts of pain, including arthritis and headache pain. In the late 1800s, scientists developed a synthetic form of salicin called salicylic acid, and aspirin was born.
Fortunately, white willow bark suppresses pain without the risks associated with synthetic aspirin. In one study, researchers found that patients who took either 240 mg or 120 mg of salicin experienced significant relief from chronic lower back pain, compared to the placebo group.4
If you use aspirin as a blood thinner to prevent heart attack, you have natural alternatives, as well. Some of those options include nattokinase,5 garlic (in either food or supplement form), ginger (in either food, supplement form or consumed as a tea), fish oil and vitamin E.6
As always, consult your physician before discontinuing the use of prescribed medication—even if the prescribed drug is an over-the-counter one like aspirin. Then express your desire to try a more natural approach to heart attack prevention or pain relief.
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