Should You Be Taking An Aspirin A Day?

Uncategorized Feb 13, 2018

If you are over the age of fifty, chances are that your physician has recommended that you take a "baby" aspirin as a preventative measure for heart disease.

Well, ahem... Since February IS, after all, "Heart Month" ... and Valentine's Day IS around the corner,  allow me to weigh in on this topic....

Aspirin, in some ways, is a "miracle drug".   It works by blocking the production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which regulate every cell in the body in many of their complex interactions. 

Some of these prostaglandins (i.e. "bad" prostaglandins) play a role in inflammation and heart disease.  They can make your blood more likely to aggregate (clump together) and set you up for heart attack or stroke. 

Nobody wants that.

So, aspirin works its magic by blocking these bad prostaglandins.  Fair enough.

However, while solving certain problems, aspirin creates others.  Especially when used over the long term:

  • It suppresses the immune system

  • It promotes macular degeneration

  • It causes gastric bleeding and ulcers

Nobody wants THAT either!

In fact, on that last point, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding  with aspirin doesn't change whether the dose is 50 mg. or 1,500 mg.   Nothing "baby" about that!

What's worse, aspirin blocks the "good" prostaglandins at the same time as it blocks the bad.  And what do these good prostaglandins do?   So glad you asked.  (You're going to love this.)

Good prostaglandins:

  • Inhibit blood aggregation
  • Inhibit the production of cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce inflammation reactions

Hmmm... Sounds to me like "good" prostaglandins have the same heart benefits as aspirin does!  Without it's side effects.

None of us has an "aspirin deficiency".   Yet, our need for  "blocking them bad guys" in the name of heart health, and encouraging production of those good prostaglandins is a worthy endeavor.  Certain dietary considerations can bring us closer to both these actions.

  1. Consume omega-3 oils -  Good prostaglandins are made from foods containing  ALA (found abundantly in flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts) and  DHA and EPA found in deep-water fish (such as salmon and sardines).  Fish oil, a concentrated source of EPA, inhibits the production of the bad prostaglandins without bothering the good ones.  Win-win.
  2. Consume garlic - Raw garlic or aged extract helps to neutralize high blood fats, high blood pressure, and, like aspirin, abnormal blood clotting.
  3. Consume pomegranate (concentrated juices and extracts) - Meet the new kid on the block.  Pomegranate offers abundant benefits for the cardiovascular system by preventing damage to arterial walls, promoting healthy blood pressure levels, improving blood flow to the heart, and preventing or reversing atherosclerosis.
  4. Consume fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - A small amount of omega-6 GLA oil is needed by our bodies to make good prostaglandins. This small amount is available in oatmeal and in trace amounts in many fruits and vegetables.
  5.  DON'T consume refined or hydrogenated oils, refined carbohydrates and sugars - They drive omega-6 (GLA) down the wrong prostaglandin pathway to make BAAAAD prostaglandins.

That is the short list.  Of course, when it comes to heart health, the list continues:  Lowering levels of fibrinogen, homocysteine, and C-Reactive Protein...  Flooding your body with anti-oxidants...  Getting plenty of magnesium and vitamin E...  Avoiding pesticide exposure... 

And while looking after your physical heart, remember also to nourish your "inner heart"-- your emotions.  Surround yourself with the people you love and all those good things that make you "tick".  Your heart will thank you.

Happy Valentine's Day!







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