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Aspirin

A tiny, common pill could defend your heart against the ravages of time. You may already have this potent and inexpensive heart protector right in your medicine cabinet. Aspirin has been shown to prevent heart attacks and speed healing following a heart attack.

Have you learned CPR so you can help a loved one or even a stranger who may suffer a heart attack? If so, you're a responsible and caring person, but you also need to know how aspirin can help save lives. Keeping aspirin in your purse or backpack could save someone's life, perhaps ever. your own.

You might think that aspirin in your first aid kit is just for headaches or fevers, but it may play a much more important role than that. A huge international study found that aspirin given to heart attack victims when admitted to the hospital decreased deaths significantly. It also reduced subsequent non-fatal heart attacks and strokes by almost half. The sooner the aspirin was given, the greater the chances of recovery.

Heads off heart disease. The smoother your blood flows, the better for your heart. Aspirin helps prevent platelets in your blood from clumping together, forming clots. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that daily aspirin helps prevent heart attack, and recent studies find that it reduces risk of death after a heart attack by even more than was previously thought, up to 70 percent. However, not all hospitals have taken notice of these exciting studies. About one-third of heart attack patients are still not given aspirin in the hospital. According to one estimate, this results in over 5,000 deaths a year that could be prevented by aspirin therapy.

Slashes stroke risk. Aspirin protects against ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot forming in your blood vessels and traveling to your brain. But because aspirin causes the blood to be thinner, some doctors were concerned that it might increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by vessels that rupture and bleed. However, since hemorrhagic stroke is very rare, the risk is overshadowed by the protective benefits of aspirin for the more common ischemic stroke. And one of the largest heart attack studies so far found no increase in the risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with aspirin.

Clobbers cataracts. Regular use of aspirin may save your eyesight. Studies show that aspirin may help prevent cataracts by neutralizing proteins that can damage your eyes.

Cuts cancer risk. Aspirin slows your body's production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are hormone-like chemicals that increase blood clotting, set off menstrual cramps, trigger inflammation, and promote cell division, including cancer cells.

Colorectal cancer. If you have a history of colorectal cancer in your family, taking aspirin for preventive purposes could save your life. Although the benefits are greatest with long-term aspirin use (10 years or more), if you are at risk, aspirin is easy and inexpensive protection against a terrible disease. One large study found that taking aspirin regularly for 20 years cut the risk of colon and rectal cancer almost in half.

Breast cancer. The drug most commonly used to treat breast cancer, tamoxifen, causes an increase in the risk of uterine cancer. Perhaps aspirin is a safer alternative. However, studies conducted on aspirin's effect on breast cancer give confusing and conflicting results. Aspirin has shown a preventive effect in animal studies and in some human studies, but other human studies show no protective benefits. But because of aspirin's importance in preventing other cancers, scientists continue to conduct studies on its effect on breast cancer.

Esophageal cancer. Regular use of aspirin has been shown to cut the risk of esophageal cancer by a whopping 90 percent.

Lung cancer. Studies on mice indicate that aspirin may keep lung cancer cells from growing by cutting the production of prostaglandins, but more studies need to be done on humans.

Helps you avoid Alzheimer's. Several studies have found that aspirin may protect you from this mind-robbing disease. For example, one study found that among pairs of elderly twins, those taking anti-inflammatory drugs, like aspirin or ibuprofen, on a regular basis were 10 times less likely to develop Alzheimer's. Since Alzheimer's is very likely to run in families, that's pretty impressive. Researchers think that regular use of anti-inflammatories may delay the disease by reducing inflammation in the brain that could cause brain cell damage. Aspirin may also help because it keeps your blood flowing steadily to your brain.

Eases arthritis pain. The pain and aching of arthritis can slow you down and make you feel as old as Methuselah. Aspirin has been used to treat the symptoms of arthritis perhaps since Methuselah's days. It can help put a youthful and pain-free bounce back into your step.

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