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Aspirin: The 2,000-Year-Old Wonder Drug

Move over apples, theres a new sheriff in town. It seems that aspirinthe pain reliever relied on
to ease a throbbing headache or aching backtaken once a day in low doses could be what
actually keeps the doctor away.
Multiple studies have shown that 75 mg a day of aspirin can cut a persons risk of colon cancer
by anywhere from 17 to 28 percent. It also reduces the odds of dying after a colon cancer
diagnosis by 30 to 40 percent.
Popping one baby aspirin a day has also been shown to protect memory and cognitive function in
older adults, according to a study recently published in BMJ Open. The growing amount of
research is finding that a regular dose of aspirin does offer some protection against the
development of dementia. According to the Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation,
the cheap over-the-counter remedy could cut the risk of developing Alzheimersby a whopping
55 percent.
As Americans search for options to trim the costs of healthcare, many are looking to this
affordable, ancient remedy as a wonder drug.
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Aspirin Through the Ages
Officially known as acetylsalicylic acid (or ASA), aspirins origins date back 2,000 years.
References to medicine (made from salicylate-rich plants such as willow) being used to treat
fevers have been found on Egyptian papyri. In 400 BC, Hippocrates, thefather of medicine,
recommended willow barkwhich is rich in salicylic acidto treat aches and pains and as an
analgesic for women in labor.
Willow barks popularity stood the test of time. Legend says Lewis and Clark relied on it to treat
fevers suffered during their famous expedition. In the 19th century pharmacists began
experimenting with and prescribing chemicals related to salicylic acid, the active component of
willow extract.
Modern days version of aspirin is the result of German chemist Felix Hoffmans work in 1897.
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Aspirin and Your Heart
In addition to being beneficial for brain and colon health, aspirin is also good for your heart.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an aspirin a day ups your heart health by interfering with your
blood's clotting action. When you bleed, cells in your blood called platelets build up at the site of
a cut or wound to help form a plug that stops the bleeding. This clotting can also occur in the
blood vessels that supply blood to your heart, leading to a blood clot that can block the artery or
prevent proper blood flow.
While it doesnt completely prohibit clotting altogether, aspirin helps by reducing platelets'
ability to clot.
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Is an aspirin a day for you?
Despite its popularity, doctors dont readily recommend aspirin to their patients or see aspirin as
voluntary.
However the mounting body of research pointing to aspirins ability to protect against a host of
diseases begs the question: Should Americans ask their doctor about incorporating an aspirin a
day?
Many doctors do suggest daily aspirin therapy to patients who:
have had a heart attack or stroke
have a family history of colon cancer
had a stent placed in a coronary artery, have had coronary bypass surgery, or have
chest pain due to coronary artery disease (angina)
never have had a heart attack but are at high risk of having one
are a man with diabetes older than 50 or a woman with diabetes older than 60
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Consult Your Physician
The typical dosage of aspirin as a preventive is 75 mg, fewer than a standard baby aspirin.
However, many doctors will prescribe 81 mg (the dose of a typical baby aspirin) up to 325 mg,
which is a regular strength aspirin.
There are downsides to aspirin, including aspirin allergy that can trigger an asthma attack,
bleeding stomach ulcers, and clotting disorders. Before starting a daily aspirin regimen, its best
to talk to your doctor about your specific benefits and risks