May 29, 2012
By David Blyweiss, M.D.
In This Issue:
- Can this over-the-counter pill make your brain bleed?
- An aspirin a day may be robbing your sight
- The trick to thinner blood and better vision
I have a lot of patients who like the idea of taking an aspirin each day. And I understand why they would.
Based on what they’ve heard, taking an aspirin is the one, single thing they can do to prevent a heart attack or stroke. And since picking up a bottle of aspirin doesn’t require a prescription, it seems like a “no-brainer.”
However, I’m not sold on the use of aspirin on a daily basis as a preventive for heart attack.
You see, any benefit gained from taking aspirin might be offset by the risk of major bleeding. And I’m not just talking about gastrointestinal bleeds, which are bad enough.
Taking an aspirin every day also can also cause intracranial hemorrhaging. This is a type of bleeding that occurs inside the skull. And it accounts for about 10% of all strokes in the U.S.
In the past several years there have been numerous studies about the risk of bleeds caused by aspirin.
For example, just last year, research out of Italy showed the daily use of aspirin was associated with 54% percent increased relative risk of intracranial bleeding. It also increased the relative risk of gastrointestinal bleeding by 55%.
And with all of that bleeding going on, aspirin-users were 5 times more likely to be hospitalized for bleeding than people who don’t use aspirin.
To top it off, other research found aspirin didn’t prevent any more coronary events or strokes than placebo. However, 70% more participants in the aspirin group required hospitalization due to hemorrhaging than in the non-aspirin group.
But that’s not the end of it.
Now a new risk has come to light. And it may leave YOU in the dark…
…Taking a daily dose of aspirin may be robbing you blind!
One of our biggest fears as we age is losing our sight. Now scientists are discovering the regular use of aspirin may be hastening that process.
Recent research shows people who take aspirin for 10 years almost double their risk of developing macular degeneration, or AMD. Those who did not take aspirin had less than a 1% risk.
Now I don’t know how much you know about macular degeneration. So just let this sink in for a minute or two…
AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age!
And just to make things more confusing, there are two forms of this sight-robbing disease.
Dry AMD happens when light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down. This gradually blurs central vision in the affected eye. Over time, as less of the macula functions, the loss becomes more pronounced.
The wet form is considered advanced AMD. And it is much more severe. It occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels tend to be very fragile and often leak blood and fluid. Damage to the macula – and the loss of central vision – often occur very rapidly.
Here’s the really scary part. The studies show it’s the wet form – the more serious kind of AMD – that aspirin really increases your risk of. In one study that included 257 aspirin-users, 24.5% of them developed wet AMD over 15 years.
We have enough to worry about. It just doesn’t make sense to pile on more worries when the protective benefits of aspirin are negligible.
So let’s take a look at natural ways to keep your blood nice and thin… and protect your eyesight at the same time.
One thing is very clear here. The risks of taking aspirin every day far outweigh any expected benefit. And there are other, less risky ways to keep your blood flowing smoothly through your veins.
I’ve got three favorites that are completely natural. You can even get them as part of your regular food intake.
- Garlic contains compounds that help keep your blood cells from clumping together. Medically, this called “antiplatelet activity.” What this means for you is improved blood flow in your arteries and less chance of clotting.Of course, garlic has other redeeming qualities as well. Aged garlic (but not raw garlic) prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and protects against free radical damage – all of which help prevent atherosclerosis.Add garlic to your meals, or invest in a good aged garlic supplement like Kyolic.
- Ginger. Here’s a real interesting bit of news for you. Research shows ginger contains a number of compounds that have more potent antiplatelet activity than aspirin. And it works extremely well as a blood thinner in patients with heart disease and diabetes.While you can certainly add ginger to your arsenal of daily supplements, incorporating it into your everyday meals and beverages (like my grandmother did) is a great place to start.I recommend starting with the fresh ginger first. Then, if you feel you would benefit from more, consider adding a ginger supplement.
- Ginkgo Biloba is another herb that increases blood circulation. Studies show it improves blood circulation by interfering with a chemical in your body that causes blood platelets to cling to the walls of your blood vessels.Try a drinking ginkgo biloba tea several times a day. If it’s not for you, I suggest supplementing with 120 to 240 mg. daily.Just make sure to tell your doctor that you’re taking these supplements. And never take ginkgo, ginger or garlic if you are on prescription blood thinners like Coumadin.
Also, before I sign off, let me give you a few tips for protecting your eyes from the ravages of macular degeneration.
I have a nutritional “cocktail” that can protect your macula and give your eyes all of the antioxidant support they need to serve you well throughout your lifetime. Just follow these recommendations:
- Lutein 25mg
- Zeaxanthin 3mg
- Vitamins C, E, and A (preferably as beta-carotene)
- Omega-3 (fish oil) 500mg
- Zinc 18mg
- Selenium 100mcg
- Bilberry Extract 100mg
And for added protection, don’t forget to wear your sunglasses when you go outdoors!
Research Examines Risk of Major Bleeding Associated With Low-Dose Aspirin Use in Patients With and Without Diabetes. Press Release. JAMA. Jun 2012.
Fowkes G. AAA: Randomised controlled trial of low dose aspirin in the prevention of cardiovascular events and death in subjects with asymptomatic atherosclerosis. Presented at European Society of Cardiology Congress, Barcelona, Spain, August 2009.
Klein BE, Howard KP, Gangnon RE, Dreyer JO, Lee KE, Klein R. Long-term use of aspirin and age-related macular degeneration. JAMA. 2012 Dec 19;308(23):2469-78.
Liew G, Mitchell P, Wong TY, Rochtchina E, Wang JJ. The Association of Aspirin Use With Age-Related Macular Degeneration. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Jan 21:1-7. [Epub ahead of print]
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Peng SY, Zhang FY, Ou-Yang XY, et al. “Effect of ginkgolide B on the platelet-activating factor induced changes of chemotaxis and cytoskeleton of macrophages.” Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2006;41:156-160