Time to Throw Out Your Aspirin

Today, we're taking a victory lap...

For more than a decade, I've warned readers of the dangers of one of the most popular drugs in America – aspirin.

Back in 2010, I told Retirement Millionaire subscribers that only folks at high risk of heart attack or stroke should take an aspirin every day. The conventional wisdom that daily aspirin is good for your heart invited needless risk for most people, who'd get the same blood-clotting benefits by taking one aspirin – with enteric coating – once every seven to 10 days.

And since I began writing Health & Wealth Bulletin nearly seven years ago, I warned folks to beware of aspirin. As I reminded folks earlier this year...

For decades, medical advice for those at risk of heart attack or stroke was to take a daily aspirin...

But we've known for years that this advice is not always useful... and is sometimes harmful. Aspirin-induced blood thinning can cause internal bleeding, particularly in the stomach. Without much proven benefit so far, taking aspirin to prevent heart attacks may not be worth the risk.

Once again, the mainstream medical community has taken its time catching up to my advice.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force ("USPSTF") finalized its recommendation...

According to its statement – released in the latest issue of JAMA – folks 40 to 59 years old without a history of cardiovascular disease but with a high risk of cardiovascular disease only see a "small net benefit." Patients should talk to their doctors before considering an aspirin regimen.

For those older than 60, there is "no net benefit" to using a daily aspirin regime to prevent heart disease or stroke.

As the USPSTF noted in its statement, "The risk for gastrointestinal bleeding, intracranial hemorrhage, and hemorrhagic stroke, with or without aspirin use, increases with older age." And taking a daily aspirin only increases the risk of bleeding.

If you do decide – after carefully weighing the risks versus the benefits – that a regular aspirin regime is right for you, do what I do... I look for aspirin with an enteric coating. And I only take one 250-milligram aspirin every 10 days or so (an Excedrin formulation). The effects last that long, so you don't need to take one daily.

But as I've always said, the best course of action is to take steps to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease through things like taking regular walks (20 minutes or more a day)... removing sugary, processed foods from your diet... and managing your mental health through meditation.

Keep your questions coming our way at [email protected]. We read every e-mail. Here are some of the things on your minds this week...

Q: Thoughts on chia seeds and flax seeds? – D.G.

A: Chia seeds and flax seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and antioxidants.

A 2015 review of studies on chia seeds from Pakistan found that the antioxidants in chia seeds keep your liver and heart healthy by fighting free radicals in your body. Recall that these damaging molecules bounce around your system, trying to pull electrons off healthy pieces of your cells. Too many free radicals can lead to massive damage. They alter your proteins, fats, and even DNA. They also can cause inflammation and cancer.

A 2019 study from the University of Manitoba found that the linolenic acid (a type of omega-3) in flax seeds helps prevent heart attacks. In the study, rats with a diet of linolenic acid from flax seeds had better cardiovascular function. Researchers also noted that these rats experienced less severe heart attacks and better recovery after a heart attack.

Chia and flax seeds also contain more than twice the amount of fiber you'd get from lentils, figs, or plums, which helps keep your digestive system running smoothly.

They are also packed with various omega-3s, which encourage muscle activity and cell growth in the body. They are an integral part of our cell membranes, and they affect the function of the cell receptors inside the membrane.

They help regulate blood clotting, the contraction and relaxation of our arterial walls, and the body's fight against inflammation. Cancer, arthritis, and heart disease also are warded off with regular consumption of omega-3s.

Just don't eat too many... Large amounts of chia or flax seeds can lead to gastrointestinal issues like constipation. Chia seeds can also thin your blood and even raise your blood pressure. Flax seeds can cause inflammation and interrupt normal hormonal function in women.

Stick to no more than a few tablespoons a day. And soak your seeds to help your body digest them more easily.

Q: Is there a place to find the old bulletins? I recall a few that talked about statins and want to review them. – J.D.

A: We keep a full archive of our issues on our website – healthandwealthbulletin.com. You can always search for specific topics there.

We've written a lot about statins over the years. (It's probably one of our most controversial topics.) Here are two of our favorite statin-focused issues to get you started:

The Heavy Cost of Lipitor

One Number That Makes My Blood Boil

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
April 29, 2022