Doctors agree that not everyone should take aspirin as a preventative
measure to reduce heart risk, according to the authors of a new study,
but there is little consensus about the point at which the benefits
outweigh the risks, even for those at higher likelihood of having a
cardiovascular event. A team of researchers looked at whether low-dose aspirin taken over the long term reduced the risk of cardiac events in women above and beyond the risks it posed.
The study set out to determine this balance point,
by tracking the heart health over a decade of almost 28,000 women who
had taken part in the Women's Health Study. Half of the participants
took an average of 100 mg of aspirin every other day; the other half
took a "dummy pill" (placebo).
Overall, the risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or dying of a
cardiac issue was reduced from 2.4 to 2.2 percent in the women who took
aspirin, compared to the control group. This reduction is not huge.
And some of the participants in the aspirin group suffered from bleeding
problems, like gastrointestinal bleeding, peptic ulcers, or easy
ACETAMINOPHEN: SLOW AND STEADY DOESN'T ALWAYS WIN
It's not only aspirin that's under the magnifying
glass. Many of us think that acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, is far
safer than aspirin. But a recent study found that even low-dose
acetaminophen over the long term can be even more damaging to the body
than a high single dose.
When researchers analyzed the records of 663 patients who had been
treated for liver toxicity at a Scotland hospital, they found that 161
of them had taken a "staggered overdose," a low, chronic amount, usually
to deal with recurrent aches and pains like muscle aches, headache, and
toothache. The continual use had damaged their livers as their bodies
struggled to remove the chemical day in and day out.
Staggered overdose patients were also more likely
to suffer brain and kidney as well as liver problems compared to
patients who had taken a large single dose of acetaminophen. They were
also at higher risk of having to be on a breathing machine -- and,
surprisingly, they had a greater risk of dying.
Appropriately, earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged all makers of
acetaminophen to reduce capsule strength to 325 mg of the drug, and to
display a boxed warning on the packaging, outlining the risk of liver
damage. Considering the number of people who use acetaminophen for
common aches and pains such as arthritis, rethinking the dosing and
marketing of the drug is likely a wise move.
Acetaminophen for Kids: Dosing Problems
The use of acetaminophen in children has also been
under scrutiny in recent months. Confusion about proper dosing for
children has prompted the FDA to revamp dosing instructions
on children's acetaminophen. Labels will now include directions for
dosing in children as young as six months and up (previously it had been
two years and older). And labels will only indicate that acetaminophen
should be used for fever reduction, not for pain, since according to the
FDA there is just not enough evidence to warrant its use for pain in