By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
October 26, 2016
- The low-down on low-dose aspirin
- Aspirin doesn’t prevent or cure heart disease
- 4 natural ways to improve blood flow
“Is baby aspirin good for my heart? Should I be taking it every day?”
These are some of the most common questions I hear from my patients. Everyone wants to protect their heart health, and taking low-dose aspirin sounds like an inexpensive way to do it.
After all, what harm could come from taking an over-the-counter pill intended for children?
Well, let’s talk about that.
You’ve probably already heard that aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeds and ulcers. That’s because it interferes with mechanisms that protect your stomach lining and neutralize acid. This can result in bleeding of the stomach and intestines.
But the worst possible outcome, by far, is an increased risk of developing a brain bleed. This is something that happens when a blood vessel in your brain ruptures. As the blood leaks into the surrounding tissue, it starts killing off all-important brain cells.
Now here’s a reality check…
If you’re taking low-dose aspirin daily, it can boost your chances of developing either of these conditions by more than 50%! So you can see why I wouldn’t want an otherwise healthy patient to take a daily dose of baby aspirin.
Even the FDA has come to terms with the idea that the dangers of low-dose aspirin as a primary preventive in people at low risk of heart disease is likely to outweigh the benefits. (This is one of the few times we’re in agreement on something.)
Aspirin doesn’t Prevent or Cure Heart Disease
Heart disease isn’t caused by a lack of aspirin. In fact, there isn’t even any evidence that aspirin can lower your chance of a cardiac event if you don’t already have cardiovascular disease. It doesn’t lower your risk of developing it, either.
Simply put, heart disease is generally a natural consequence of the downstream results of outside inflammation insulting your cardiovascular system. What does this mean? What it means is that poor diet, inactivity, excess fat, smoking and other unhealthy choices are major factors on top of the minor factor of your genes…and not so scary when you realize you can change your life by doing what you know you should be doing anyway.
Popping an aspirin every morning isn’t going to undo the damage that these lifestyle factors cause. And it can potentially add more problems to the equation.
The first thing you can do to change this potential problem is to adopt strategies that boost your heart health. That means choosing a Modified Mediterranean style diet…by modified I mean tailored to your needs, starting a high intensity interval training program (after checking with your doctor) and ditching a few bad habits.
Additionally, if you or your doctor have concerns about blood-clotting issues, there are several healthier and effective ways to help keep your blood flowing safely.
4 Natural ways to improve blood flow
The risks of taking aspirin every day outweigh the expected benefit. And there are other, less risky ways to keep your blood flowing smoothly through your veins.
I’ve got several favorites that are completely natural. You can even get them as part of your regular food intake.
Eating foods high in nitrates helps your body produce a gas called nitric oxide. Much of the wonderfulness of this compound comes from its’ invigoration of your blood vessels which not only helps keep your blood platelets from clumping together, it also lowers your blood pressure and protects the delicate inner lining endothelium of your blood vessels.
Some of these foods include beetroot, kale, melon, celery and lettuce. However, the quickest and most effective way to produce more of this compound is with a nitric oxide enhancer.
Look for a plant-based formula that has beetroot juice as its main ingredient. These formulas vary from one manufacturer to another, so make sure to choose the one that gives you what actually works at a fair price.
Garlic also contains compounds that help keep your blood cells from sticking together. This means improved blood flow and less chance of clotting. It also helps to prevent oxidation of LDL cholesterol, lowers blood pressure and protects against free radical damage. So it’s definitely a heart-healthy food. I like aged garlic like Kyolic …if eating it is an issue for you or others around you.
Ginger is another winner. In fact, it contains compounds that have even more anti-platelet activity than aspirin does. It is anti-inflammatory and works extremely well as a blood thinner in patients with heart disease and diabetes. And they actually sell it in jars both pickled and unpickled, sliced or minced. You don’t have to slice and chop it yourself.
Gingko Biloba is another favorite of mine. It interferes with a chemical in your body that causes blood platelets to cling to the walls of your blood vessels. Try a gingko biloba tea, or supplement with 120 to 240 mg daily.
Speaking of teas, organic green teas are rich in EGCG which also improves the functioning of your cardiovascular endothelial lining.
And of course fish oils. Stay away from the cheap ones, their price reflects lack of quality in sourcing and in quality management and manufacturing. Three to six grams a day in divided doses with meals works for me since the bottle is on my kitchen table.
Now, all of these foods and/or supplements can maximize your blood flow nutritionally, so it’s important that you never eat these foods (or their supplement versions) if you’re already taking a blood thinner like Coumadin, Heparin, Xarelto, Eliquis or whatever new name and chemical appears on the drug market.
It’s also a good idea to have your doctor give you a full list of foods that interact with these drugs to avoid serious bleeding issues.
De Berardis G, et al. Association of aspirin use with major bleeding in patients with and without diabetes. JAMA. 2012 Jun 6;307(21):2286-94.
Use of Aspirin for Primary Prevention of Heart Attack and Stroke. Information for Consumers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. May 2014.
Webb AJ, et al. Acute blood pressure lowering, vasoprotective, and antiplatelet properties of dietary nitrate via bioconversion to nitrite. Hypertension. 2008 Mar;51(3):784-90.
Makheja AN, et al. Antiplatelet constituents of garlic and onion. Agents Actions. 1990 Mar;29(3-4):360-3.
Bordia A, et al. Effect of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) and fenugreek (Trigonella foenumgraecum L.) on blood lipids, blood sugar and platelet aggregation in patients with coronary artery disease. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1997 May;56(5):379-84.
Nurtjahja-Tjendraputra E, et al. Effective anti-platelet and COX-1 enzyme inhibitors from pungent constituents of ginger. Thromb Res. 2003;111(4-5):259-65.
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