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Do not fall for this very common, very dangerous medical myth

Can’t make this stuff up

“Higher daily dose of aspirin could play key role in preventing heart attacks for those with diabetes.”

That’s a headline from a University of Alberta (UA) press release.

Now here’s a headline that appeared in MyHealthNewsDaily the very same day: “Common Painkillers May Increase Risk of Irregular Heart Rhythm.”

I couldn’t make this stuff up, so it’s nice that I don’t have to!

Unfortunately, it’s not fiction. But it could be tragic for any diabetics who are persuaded to take a substantial dose of aspirin every day.

The headline they buried

The “common painkillers” mentioned in that second headline include aspirin, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

The UA team examined 21 studies. Results showed that diabetic subjects with a history of heart attack or stroke were 23 percent less likely to have a second heart attack or die during the study period if they took 325 mg of aspirin daily.

Note that 325 mg is not “low dose.” The low dose regimen for heart health calls for 81 mg per day. But in the UA analysis, low dose didn’t protect against a second heart attack or decrease mortality.

Hmmm…no benefit from the low dose? Now THAT is an important headline that people should be reading!

Meanwhile, Danish researchers compared medical records for about 32,000 atrial fibrillation patients with medical records for more than 320,000 healthy subjects. Results showed that 60 days or more of NSAID use increased atrial fibrillation risk by 40 percent, and the same amount of COX-2 inhibitor use increased risk by 70 percent.

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm that’s linked to long-term risk of stroke, heart failure, and death.

But for anyone who might actually follow the insane daily aspirin recommendation of the University of Alberta team, their risk of atrial fibrillation is probably minor compared to their bleeding risk.

According to the American Gastroenterological Association, stomach bleeding and other side effects of regular NSAID use results in more than 100,000 hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year in the U.S.

And you’ll find this additional warning on the AGA website: “Recent studies indicate that NSAIDs (except for low-dose aspirin) may increase the chance of heart attack or stroke.”

So in spite of the rosy picture painted by the UA study, the reality is that aspirin and other NSAIDs should NEVER be taken as heart health medication or to help prevent cardiovascular events.

We can only hope that this will someday be clear to everyone. Meanwhile, today, tell your friends and family not to fall for this absurdly excessive use of aspirin. Or put all the conflicting studies in front of them and let them figure out what scientists and doctors can’t…or rather, won’t.

Sources: 
“Higher daily dose of aspirin could play key role in preventing heart attacks for those with diabetes” University of Alberta press release, 7/5/11, eurekalert.org

“Common Painkillers May Increase Risk of Irregular Heart Rhythm” MyHealthNewsDaily, 7/5/11, myhealthnewsdaily.com

“Nonsteriodal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)” American Gastroenterological Association, 4/24/10, gastro.org

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