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MagazineJuly 2000 (Vol. 11 Issue 4)Aspirin

An aspirin a day is supposed to keep the heart attack away, and without any nasty side effects

An aspirin a day is supposed to keep the heart attack away, and without any nasty side effects.

Doctors have been recommending that people take a mini dose of aspirin around 75 mg as part of their daily regimen, along with walking the dog, putting out the rubbish and getting in late for work.

Over the long term, around 20 years or so, this little discipline should greatly reduce the risk of heart problems in later life, and the dose is small enough not to cause any adverse reactions.

Or so they thought. Researchers know that even moderate doses of aspirin could affect kidney function in some way, but now there are concerns that even smaller doses could have similar effects.

A study in Israel of 49 elderly patients found that even a three week course let alone a 20 year one was affecting kidney function. After one week taking the 75 mg dose, average serum uric acid increased by 6 per cent and average uric acid clearance decreased by 23 per cent, both described as "significant changes". These levels did not fully stabilise until a week after the course was stopped (Arthritis Rheum, 2000; 43: 103-8).

Just in case you've not been paying attention over the past decade, aspirin can also cause Reye's syndrome a potentially fatal inflammation of the brain in children and, more commonly, upper abdominal discomfort, allergic hypersensitivity in asthmatics, gastrointestinal irritation and indigestion, including bleeding and inflammation of the stomach. Gastric haemorrhage has also been reported. Regular aspirin takers therefore increase their chances of haemorrhage after an operation such as a tonsillectomy or circumcision, and during labour.

So, if you can avoid having an operation, or conversion to Islam or Judaism, or having a baby for around 20 years, you might just reduce your risk of heart problems.

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