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An Aspirin a Day?

Four or Five years ago, when I was studying about natural health, I remember the instructor pointing out a new statement by the FDA against recommending daily aspirin for prevention of heart attack. The FDA statement indicated that the risks of daily aspirin use far outweighed any benefit that an individual might receive.

When I received my copy of Nutrition Action Health Letter. As I was glancing through it, I came upon an article questioning Aspirin as a therapeutic agent for health.

The Nutrition Action Health Letter is published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit aimed at providing scientifically based and unbiased information about food. CSPI was founded in 1971. Their focus is to hold the government and food industry accountable to the public health and have advocated for a safer, healthier food system. I have heard people refer to them as the food Nazis. Well, if that’s what you get called for telling people to eat real food and for revealing what is really in our food, so be it.

The article briefly outlines the history of aspirin use as a preventative measure. It used to be thought that most people over a certain age should take aspirin daily, but the new advice from the American Heart Association is that people over 60, who have not had a heart attack or stroke should not take aspirin daily and those who are 40 -59 and are at high risk need to discuss their options with their doctor.

While aspirin may modestly lower the risk of heart attack, it also dramatically increases the risk of major bleeding as compared to a placebo. This means bleeding in the brain and bleeding ulcers in the stomach and gut. As we get older, our risk for bleeding generally increases due to increased fragility of the blood vessels. Bleeding risk is also increased by the use of blood thinners, steroids like prednisone, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil and Aleve and other medications.

My mother loved aspirin. She took it for every headache and pain she experienced. Later she was told by her MD to take it daily to help prevent heart disease. When I would visit, I would notice bruising on her arms. I’d ask her, “Are you taking aspirin every day?” She would say “Yes,” and I would say, “Well, stop. If it’s causing bleeding under the skin on your arms, where else could it be causing bleeding?” She would stop and her arms would clear up. Then she would start up again and the bruising would return. Eventually, it got to where she couldn’t take aspirin at all, but she died of a hemorrhagic stroke, meaning a blood vessel in her brain burst, killing part of her brain. I don’t know that the prior aspirin use had anything to do with it, but I think that over the years of use, the blood vessels weakened, contributing to the stroke.

You might wonder, well what am I to do then? That’s where I can help. First, we would need to determine your risk of heart attack and stroke, which we can do in 10 minutes using a computerized system I call the DHHT for Dynamic Heart Health Test. I call it the Dynamic Heart Health Test because it measures parameters of heart health function not only at rest but in two activities that increase stress and one activity intended to reduce stress. The test is completely computerized so there is no blood draw and no fasting required. The hardest part is holding your breath for 15 seconds. The best part is that it can give us an indicator of risk 10 to 20 years before anything would show up medically. Based upon the results, I can give you personalized assistance in reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke. The lifestyle recommendations themselves will increase your overall health and pose no health risks whatsoever.

Some of the recommendations are:

  • If you are carrying extra weight, get your weight under control. I have a friend who weighed 333 lbs. He said he was half a beast. He lost a mere 35 pounds and got many risk factors such as his Hemoglobin A1C under control.
  • Increase your exercise intensity. There is a lot of evidence that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) promotes the body’s production of natural compounds that improve blood vessel regeneration and flexibility, while reducing Hemoglobin A1C. Elevated Hemoglobin A1C has been associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduce your carbohydrate intake. In this country we eat far more carbohydrates than we need in relation to our activity level. A diet based on rice might be fine for a farmer in China who walks everywhere and engages in physical activity all day. Unfortunately, our society is not geared toward activity. Thirty years ago I lived in a small town where I could walk from my house to almost everything I needed although the grocery store downtown closed a few years before I moved there. I could walk to the bank, the post office, the pharmacy where I paid my utility bills and even to the pediatrician’s office! By the time I moved out in 2017, the only place within walking distance was the Family Dollar. This is true all over, except maybe in major cities. We don’t get the activity in our daily lives like we used to. Plus we have been encouraged to eat more carbs since the 1980s when the government decided that fats were bad for you. You need to think of spaghetti as a long string of sugar molecules which are absorbed rapidly into your body. When our bodies are flooded with sugar the cells start to freak out and say “No, we can’t handle anymore.” It’s like having five people talking to you at once. You just can’t handle it. If the cells can’t take up the sugar, then the liver converts the sugar to triglycerides which are hard on our blood vessels and the conversion process is hard on our livers, resulting in Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.
  • Reduce your stress response. We all have stress. It’s called life. It’s the way we let stressors into our lives and how we respond that matters. If we let stress get to us, it raises the level of certain adrenal hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. The stress response was a necessary adaptation when we were cavemen and women so we could fight or flee from wild animals. The blood pressure increases in order to pump more blood to the muscles. The problem with modern society is that we usually do not need to fight or flee from what our bodies perceive as stressful. Over time, this can not only lead to chronically elevated blood pressure, it can also lead to abnormal blood pressure regulation. One such problem is called “Orthostatic Hypotension.” This is when your blood pressure fails to elevate momentarily when you get up from sitting or standing. It can cause dizziness or even fainting. The problem is that, if you faint, you fall down and you can hit your head, which causes other problems.
  • Identify and eliminate foods that cause inflammation. Food such as dairy, corn and wheat can lead to an increased inflammatory response in our bodies, mostly because they have been changed by industrial farming practices and are not recognized as food by our bodies. When something foreign, such a germ or a “food” that has been chemically or genetically modified enters our body, the immune system acts to get rid of the invader. Sometimes we need this in order to get well from an invading germ or from an injury, but most people are over inflamed due to the foods they eat and other lifestyle factors such as prolonged stress response and smoking. Inflammation is the key to many chronic diseases such as joint pain, cancer and heart disease. Inflammation also “turns on” our bad genes, so if you have a strong family history of any chronic disease you want to be especially sure to do everything you can to naturally keep your inflammation at bay. There are several ways to identify what foods could be causing a problem for you so you know what you need to specifically avoid in order to get or stay healthy. Remember, everyone is different so the foods that are a problem for you are as individual as you are. I had one patient who tested sensitive to gluten, dairy and carrots. Carrots?! Yup, carrots. Within three days of eliminating the foods she was sensitive to she had greatly reduced inflammation.
  • Specific nutritional supplementation can also be helpful. There is so much out there that can be helpful, but it can be overwhelming. And you could be wasting your money on something you don’t need so it’s good to get evaluated in order to determine exactly what it is you do need. For example, there are supplements that claim to be good for your heart and blood vessels because they increase Nitric Oxide production. The problem is that many of these supplements can increase a form of Nitric Oxide that is detrimental as opposed to the forms that are helpful. I usually recommend that before taking specific nutritional supplementation, as person should make lifestyle changes. If I think you need supplementation, I will let you know and I will help you get what will be most beneficial for you.

To find out more about how to reduce your risk of heart disease, or to schedule an appointment, contact us and I’ll be happy to help you on your road to better health.

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