November  
2008

Vol 8-No. 5


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HEALTH AND FITNESS



A Miracle Cure for Three Cents a Week

By Dr. David Eifrig Jr.

For most people, taking aspirin is safe. But for some people, aspirin can increase the chance of bleeding in the stomach or intestines and may cause a small increase in some kinds of stroke.

For that reason, taking aspirin is not the right choice for everyone. The higher your risk of heart disease, the more you have to gain by taking aspirin. 

- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

The year is 2040. Still tired when I walk into the bathroom, I open my eyes. The retinal scanner identifies me, and drops a white tablet into a glass. Green tea with phyto-nutrients fills the cup and dissolves the 325 mg tablet. I drink it down. This pill has kept me alive for a long time.

Thankfully, my body is showing no signs of inflammation. My computer congratulated me last week on my health index, although it suspected I might be drinking red wines that are not young enough. There are some things a computer will never understand.

That afternoon, I decided to go back in time to learn more about the history of that tiny, white pill. Everybody on Earth takes one of these pills each morning, and I wanted to know why. First, my time transporter took me back to 400 B.C. Then I jumped ahead to Germany in 1899.

Here's what I learned...

In 400 B.C., Hippocrates, the father of medicine, brewed a tea from willow bark. The tea was used to ease the aches and pains of childbirth. Occasionally, men also sipped it for pain.

In 1899 Germany, I found a chemist for the dug company Bayer exploring the willow bark chemicals. He convinced his boss the drug relieved aches, pains, and even fevers. So the drug became the first to be chemically synthesized. Moreover, it was the first drug to be truly "marketed." Bayer, the German company, sent thousands of doctors written information about the drug's efficacy.

Bayer soon patented the drug, but it took another 70 years before anyone understood how it worked. In 1971, British scientist John Vane explained it to the world. For that, he won a Nobel Prize. He was also knighted.

What is this drug? It's aspirin. I started taking it once a week in the early 2000s but since 2020, I've taken one tablet each day. The drug is a miracle, and it's cheap.

As Vane discovered, aspirin works its wonders by modifying the prostaglandin system. This system manages everything from the thickness of your stomach lining (which protects you from the acid in your stomach), to thermoregulation of your body, and your ability to perceive pain.

Do you have heart disease? If so, every doctor should tell you to chew on a 325 mg aspirin tablet if you suspect you're having a heart attack or stroke. Do this as quickly as possible to prevent clots from getting larger within the vessels of your heart or brain. Aspirin actually blocks the platelets in your blood from forming clots.

In fact, taken daily, aspirin does amazing things. It reduces:

the risk of heart attacks by at least 50%,

colon cancer by 40%,

the risk of stroke by 15%,

and inflammation causing headaches and arthritis.

Some evidence suggests it may slow Alzheimer's disease.

Ask your doctor if you should take it and he will probably say "no." He'll recommend a cholesterol-lowering drug instead. Yet the evidence is clear... For the money, there is no better drug.

Your doctor might respond with a rote phrase like: "For many things, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is safer." Ask him about giving it to children and he will say NEVER give aspirin to a child. "It might cause brain damage and even kill them." This is a question every doctor answers on every test they ever take, even though the evidence for it is terribly poor. The so-called Reye's syndrome is somehow linked to children's deaths.

But aspirin is actually very safe. The evidence on the dangers of aspirin is so poor, original reports and conclusions about the drug would be laughed out of modern-day medical journals. Truth is, the replacement drug, acetaminophen recommended for children is many times more dangerous. When taken in large doses, acetaminophen essentially destroys the liver within days. An overdose of acetaminophen can leave you dying on a liver transplant list. This is not the case with aspirin.

Aspirin is safely taken by millions of adults. Amazingly, Bayer, the original maker of this super chemical, still sells over 12 billion doses per year. And it isn't even patented anymore. Worldwide, nearly 100 billion tablets of this drug are taken annually.

We spend billions of dollars on health care in America. Yet one of the most beneficial ways to improve and maintain your health is simple and costs almost nothing. One tablet costs about three cents.

So, when it comes to aspirin, what do I do?

1.

I take one 325 mg aspirin every week (the irreversible effects last about seven days).

2.

I prefer to get one of the buffered brands because it is easier on my stomach.

3.

I am careful to not drink much alcohol around the time I take the tablet. Alcohol can also thin the blood, and theoretically lead to increased bleeding.

4.

When I get a little older, maybe in 2020, I'll probably start taking a "baby aspirin" daily. A baby aspirin is 81 mg, or one-fourth the dose I now take weekly.

I look for simple, cheap, and safe things to improve the long-term quality of my life. Aspirin is simple, inexpensive, and safe.

Copyright STANSBERRY & ASSOCIATES INVESTMENT RESEARCH                                         

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