Posted in Women & Family

The take on Aspirin.

Its an ongoing debate for decades: whether or not take Aspirin, one a day. The first time someone suggested aspirin to me was in the year 1998 in Malaysia. In the south east Asian country, I was surprised to discover that the locals irrespective of their race or sex and physical attributes, took a minimum dose pill every single day of the week once he/she crossed into thirties. By thirty-five or forty, an overwhelming majority of adults healthy or otherwise were on aspirin already. Aspirin was like the sleeping pill. I put it down to heavy consumption of red meat even if the Indian (read Hindu) community mostly restricted themselves to staple non vegetarian fare of chicken-mutton-fish-prawn. Aspirin was after all touted to be the best and cheapest blood thinner. It mattered most to the south east Asians who vied for a place with south Asians when it came to coronary heart diseases. Because whether Malay or Indian or Chinese, the population had major cardiac issues owing to genetic dispositions. Lifestyle conditions such as elevated blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol also ran rampant cutting across races. Since Aspirin was sold over the counter, it was not difficult to procure it in an otherwise stringent nation that Malaysia was when it came to medication and pharmaceuticals. Medicines were not in general procurable without a medical prescription and medication was always the responsibility of the physician who also doubled up as pharmacist. I never came across a single pharmaceutical that did not sell anything over generic medicine in our four year residence in Malaysia. Whereas, our India is free for all! Antibiotics to anti-venom serum for snake bite, anything can be procurable without a medical prescription from competent physician top of the counter in India! This now can be a blessing as well as curse to which I shall come to later in an other post.

So for years doubts persisted in me about Aspirin. I got it cleared from my brother-in-law who is a general practitioner with his own private practice. He advised a strict NO saying, there were also associated stroke statistics when it came to long term usage of aspirin. He asked me not to go for it even very recently when I expressed my concern as I have a mild lifestyle condition. Our family physician also ruled out aspirin for those who drive long distances like for instance, to work. For any medical emergencies, he said, for someone who took aspirin, the medicos needed to wait for 36 hours minimum for the aspirin to be completely washed out of the system. Too much blood dilution thus could prove to be counter productive. Aspirin was basically blood thinner and therefore, even if it prevented arterial clogs, it also made sometimes bleeding unstoppable during surgeries or on injuries which made it a potential life risk. Hence the waiting time, that could cost one his/her dear life in critical emergencies. Aspirin was also claimed to cause intestinal bleeding on prolonged use. When you drove a lot, faced physically challenging situations, traveled frequently, said my doc, it is better to avoid aspirin. For him, the low dose must be reserved for septuagenarians and octogenarians who may have coronary issues. His prescription to unclog blocks in middle age was by way of physical fitness regimen such as workouts and healthy dietary habits.

I am just learning about baby aspirin which comes across as the least minimum dosage prescribed for adults which is supposedly safe intake on regular basis which is about 81 mg per day. Whether it can prevent vascular diseases remains a big question mark yet, but baby aspirin could be harmless dose that can be taken without a doctor’s prescription – provided the concerned individual is not under medical treatment for any health issues. Anyone on other prescribed drugs would simply have to consult his/her physician before deciding on aspirin.

Personally, into my early fifties, I do feel like I have reached the stage when I must start popping a baby aspirin at least once a week even if i am a lifelong vegetarian. We simply have to read up much more on the topic before we arrive at a decision. The call i guess, is ours to make entirely. By world standards, we Indians are pretty late when it comes to aspirin intake. We reserve it mostly to our retirement or for post coronary bypass surgery. To my knowledge, Europeans, Americans and South East Asians start taking low dosage aspirin by their late thirties or early forties. May be many middle age heart attacks are preventable with lives saved with early start of aspirin who knows. Divided on that.