Have you been wondering about aspirin?
Nearly every day, a patient asks me about aspirin and heart attacks and strokes. I usually respond with something like:
“Well, the TV commercials make aspirin prevention sound logical. But it’s not a vitamin or a nutrient. It’s a drug. Drugs are rarely health enhancing. And taking aspirin regularly often causes a new set of unintended consequences.”
A study just published in Lancet Neurology found that strokes caused by high blood pressure dropped by 65 percent in the last 20 years. But in people over 75, so many more strokes occurred among patients taking blood-thinning drugs like aspirin and Warfarin that the overall rate of strokes remained the same.
What’s more, between the two periods studied, the proportion of stroke patients on blood-thinners increased from 4 percent to 40 percent. And the number of strokes associated with these drugs increased by a factor of seven!
In fact, the same researchers estimated that the increasing misuse of drugs like aspirin means that they may soon overtake high blood pressure as the leading cause of stroke in those over 75.
My advice continues to be “avoid drugs whenever possible”. Daily aspirin appears to be no exception.
Instead, take steps to lower your homocysteine. What’s homocysteine? It’s an amino acid. You produce it naturally as a byproduct of metabolism.
It’s really a “toxic waste” product, something your cells dump into your bloodstream as they burn energy. Too much of it is a serious health risk.
You won’t hear it mentioned in the news stories about heart health. Big Pharma would prefer that you spend your money on expensive and dangerous cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor and Zocor.
But the fact is, homocysteine levels are a better predictor of heart disease and stroke, than cholesterol.
Homocysteine is not only a predictor, but also a cause of heart attacks. It irritates the lining of blood vessels. Excess homocysteine keeps your blood vessels from opening up, or “dilating,” properly. This decreases blood flow at critical times. Inadequate blood flow to the heart causes heart attacks. Inadequate blood flow to the brain causes strokes.
If you don’t know your homocysteine level, I recommend you have it checked. A simple blood test will give you an accurate reading.
A level above 10.4 mM/L is abnormally high. I generally shoot for a goal of below 7 with my patients.
You can easily lower your homocysteine levels. It’s as simple as taking a supplement. No harsh drugs are necessary. My bet is that if Merck or Pfizer made a drug for it, homocysteine would be a household word.
The easiest way to lower your homocysteine is with a B vitamin supplement.
Here’s what I recommend:
• Vitamin B6 – 75 mg daily.
• Vitamin B12 – 400 mcg daily.
• Folic Acid – 800 mcg daily.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1 C. Lovelock et al, “Change in incidence and aetiology of intracerebral haemorrhage in Oxfordshire, UK, between 1981 and 2006: a population-based study,” Lancet Neurology, 6(2007): 487-493.