If you're taking aspirin for your
heart, you’re more than twice
as likely to go blind
If you've read these pages for a while, you know that I've never suggested aspirin, for any condition (other than perhaps acute pain). There's good reason for it. Aspirin has a dark side to it. As you may know, it tends to cause bleeding in your gut. But that's not the only reason I don't recommend aspirin. In fact, there are a couple of other reasons. And one of them may surprise you.

Aspirin is a COX inhibitor. COX is cyclo-oxygenase, an important enzyme for your body. Celebrex (and killer Vioxx) suppresses one variety of COX called COX-2. NSAIDs, including aspirin, drugs generally suppress COX-1. My philosophical bent is totally away from anything that "suppresses." Modern medicine is almost totally based on poisoning your enzymes to bring you into balance. But, the "new" balance is a much lower level of overall function than optimal. Aspirin is no exception. The result of this action leads us to another problem with aspirin.

A new study has tied aspirin to age-related macular degeneration or AMD. In particular, it can cause neovascular AMD. This is the "wet" form of AMD in which abnormal blood vessel growth, and then protein oozing and bleeding occurs in your macula. It affects about 10% of the entire AMD population, but is definitely worse than the "dry" form.

The researchers looked into past studies and saw that there could be a possible AMD link. So, they conducted a prospective study (the best kind) on 2,389 Aussies, aged 49 and up. They performed retinal examinations every five years. They classified macular lesions, which developed as neovascular (wet) or geographic atrophy (dry). A structured questionnaire reported aspirin use and other relevant information. Of the total group, 257 were regular aspirin users. They were older and had more conditions associated with the vascular system, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

The study lasted 15 years. They found wet AMD in 63 people. Among regular aspirin users, the onset of the AMD was 1.8%, 7%, and 9.3% at 5, 10 and 15 years respectively. The wet variety rose with increasing aspirin use, occurring in 2.2% in those never using it, 2.9% in occasional users, to 5.8% in those using it routinely. They didn't find any association between aspirin and the dry AMD variety.

Overall, the study found that the odds of macular degeneration in regular aspirin users are 2.37 times the general population. This risk remained despite further adjustments for body mass index, systolic blood pressure, and history of vascular disease. The researchers also controlled for medication use like acetaminophen and beta-blockers.

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The purpose of preventive aspirin is allegedly to prevent cardiovascular disease. However, it does so at the cost of inhibiting/poisoning metabolic pathways. It's held that COX-1, the target of aspirin, increases the production of inflammatory prostaglandins. That's true. So, inhibiting the enzyme might reduce inflammatory molecules like thromboxane. But COX-1 is also the starting point for the production of the most important vessel lubricator of all - prostacyclin. What medicine just doesn't know is how throwing off the balance of this system will affect any one particular individual. Perhaps prostacyclin will be greatly lowered as a cost of forcibly reducing thromboxane.

Aspirin is a coal tar derivative. I prefer to accomplish the same reduction in inflammation with natural plant-derived molecules. You can get much of the same benefit with real essential fatty acids, including evening primrose oil, like those found in Advanced EFA Formula. Turmeric, which you can find in Reduloxin, is another fantastic natural anti-inflammatory.  

REF: Walsh, Nancy. "Aspirin Use Tied to Vision Loss With Age," MedPage Today, January 21, 2013.

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