The cardiovascular power of a pain killer (aspirin) unplugged

aspirin preventing platelet aggregationIt may seem odd, that a drug whose claim to fame is fighting pain, rose to the level of superstar in the world of meds used to combat cardiovascular disease .  To understand what is happening we need to eaves drop on cell conversations.

Cells chit chat using the eicosanoid language. Listening in on the cell chit chat is quite difficult, because cells whisper to one another so the chemicals only exist for a very brief period of time, at extremely low levels.  Scientists are still trying to learn the language, but they have identified a number of these chemicals.

Aspirin changes cell talk.

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Watch out, aspirin burns holes in your stomach

cells lining stomach being burnt because of aspirinSome people are supersensitive and feel the burn when they take an aspirin, but even tough guys are being burned by the pain killer.  Aspirin can’t help it, that is how it works

Aspirin works by destroying an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. The enzyme helps cells to talk to one another via the eicosanoid language.  It is a complicated language, but at the end of the day, the cell chit chat is either positive or negative. Negative messages (bad eicosanoids) cause inflammation, positive messages (good eicosanoids) stop inflammation.

Aspirin stops all talk, good and bad.

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Diabetics should dump the baby aspirin since it’s not enough to prevent cardiovascular disease

saving the heart one aspirin at a timeThe idea that an aspirin a day keeps cardiovascular disease at bay is quite firmly entrenched in the collective psyche. The idea was first touted by the FDA over a decade ago and has been widely publicised in the media.

The recommendation, as it stands it to take low dose aspirin, usually < 100 mg. The low dose can be achieved by taking an aspirin tablet formulated for a child, often referred to as a “baby” aspirin or splitting a standard aspirin tablet in half.

The emphasis is on taking a LOW dose, because high doses of aspirin can be quite hard on the stomach and increase the risk of bleeding etc.

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Aspirin discriminates against women

aspirin is not for womenYou worry about suffering a heart attack or debilitating stroke, since aspirin is relatively cheap and freely available at the supermarket, it makes sense to pop a box into the trolley and regularly swig them down, as insurance.

The idea that an aspirin a day, will protect from heart disease, is pretty much embedded in the collective psyche.

But as with most chemicals – it works for some people, does nothing for some and is actually harmful to others.

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