It’s common knowledge that a daily aspirin can help lower your chance for heart disease, stroke, and heart attack if you’re prone to cardiovascular issues.
Now we can chalk up another benefit: An aspirin a day can help prevent the onset of colorectal cancer in at-risk people, according to a broad recommendation issued Monday by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
The recommendation is not without some resistance, though. The task force, appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services, has received more than a little flack, The New York Times reports. Critics fear that healthy men and women pursue the regimen run health risks consistent with daily aspirin use, such as stomach and brain bleeds and hemorrhagic strokes. Others claim there are better (safer) alternatives, like cholesterol-and-blood-pressure-lowering drugs to reduce cardiovascular risks or colonoscopy screenings to identify pre-cancerous polyps. But the task force says that for vulnerable adults ages 50 to 69, the benefits outweigh the risks.
In one review, high-risk men and women—defined as someone who has a 10 percent (or greater) risk of having a heart attack in the next 10 years—who took aspirin to prevent their first heart attack exhibited 22 percent fewer heart attacks and their overall death rate was cut by six percent. In another analysis on colorectal cancer in at-risk patients, daily aspirin use over the span of five to 10 years cut deaths by 33 percent and reduced the incidence of colon cancer by 40 percent.
People in their 50s are thought to benefit the most, whereas the recommendation is weaker for adults ages 60-69 because of the increase risk of internal bleeding. In fact, a third analysis found daily aspirin increased stomach bleeds by two-thirds. Needless to say, experts have some reservations and want more research conducted. And while this information may not be particularly useful or applicable to you (there isn't any recommendation for young people to use aspirin for preventative cancer measures), there are several ways you could be using aspirin in your everyday life—and it's not just for aches and pains. The headache reliever’s got some great household uses, like helping to remove soap scum and patch up drywall; some personal hygiene applications, like combatting acne and dandruff; and of course heart health-boosting potential. Ready to put the all-purpose pill to the test? Start here.
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