Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Aspirin: Small Dose, Big Benefits

In today's world of skyrocketing health care costs, it's nice to be reminded that cheaper sometimes is just as good -- or even better -- than expensive.

Duke medical center researchers have shown this to be true when it comes to using aspirin to prevent heart attacks, stroke or death among patients with cardiovascular disease. They found that using low doses of the 100-plus-year-old drug is just as effective as higher doses.

Moreover, low-dose aspirin -- commonly in the 81 milligram "baby aspirin" range -- worked just as well as several newer drugs.

"When you put aspirin up against newer medications like the cholesterol-lowering statins or blood pressure-reducing ACE-inhibitors -- which can be very expensive -- you see a similar pattern of benefit," says study investigator Dr. Jeffrey Berger, a cardiologist at the Duke Clinical Research Institute (photo above).

Results of the study, published in the January 2007 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, are described in a medical center news release.

The study also has had another result: it reminded me that many people at risk of developing heart problems -- including, in my case, men over 40 -- can benefit by taking a low dose of aspirin each day.

Of course, aspirin can cause side effects, such as serious bleeding, in some patients. So, as they say in the ads, consult your doctor -- but do keep in mind the potential health benefits of the lowly, often overlooked aspirin tablet.

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