There is a huge debate going on among the medical and health experts about your health. The debate concerns the use of aspirin (acetaminophen) such as Tylenol as a preventive measure. Under current FDA guidelines, it is recommended to take a low dosage (amount) of aspirin only after you have already had a heart attack or stroke. It is not currently recommended for everyone to use daily. This is the position presented by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently. There is another group called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
After doing some research on them, The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is made up of 16 volunteer members who are nationally recognized experts in prevention, evidence-based medicine, and primary care. Their fields of practice and expertise include behavioral health, family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and nursing. This task force is different from the FDA in the sense that all members are volunteers, serve four year terms and are screened to ensure that they have no substantial conflicts of interest that could impair scientific integrity. So unlike the FDA which is subject to influence from congress, the president and pharmaceutical companies, the USPSTF is independent from all influences and base their work on science. One note about this group is that they technically have no power or authority but can only suggest recommendations.
So now that I have provided some background on the task force, let us consider their recommendation. The USPSTF recommend that some people who haven’t had a heart attack should take a daily low-dose aspirin to help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and possibly colon cancer. This doesn’t sound too bad since they are looking after our health. The only issue not taken into account is that low doses of aspirin can cause internal bleeding in the stomach, intestines and in the brain. Internal bleeding is one of those symptoms that are hard to determine which can lead to death if it is untreated. Imagine trying to figure out where a leaking pipe is behind a wall. You can only do this if you open up the wall. This is the first time a health organization has recommended the use of aspirin to prevent cancer.
The concern from the USPSTF are the adults in their 50s who have a 10 percent or greater risk of heart disease over the next 10 years. This attempt is try to prevent heart disease and colon cancer later in life. There have been numerous studies performed that found adequate evidence that aspirin (acetaminophen) reduces the incidence of colorectal cancer in adults after 10 years of use. The risks of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding and hemorrhagic stroke are small in adults under 60 and small to moderate in those in their 60s. This is great news but as always, a conversation should be held with your doctor to determine if this is good for you.
What Is Acetaminophen?
Aspirin (acetaminophen) is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) which is sold over the counter. There are other types of NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen. This study is based on aspirin only. Aspirin helps reduce the rate of blood clotting and can lower inflammation. It also helps with headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, backache, toothaches, colds, and fevers. This drug has to be taken as instructed on the bottle to perform its best.
Although acetaminophen is very good for you, there is such a thing as acetaminophen overdose. Before everyone starts to panic, you will not die from taking 12 aspirin directly. Acetaminophen is metabolized (broken down) in your liver. Then it is processed into your blood to spread around your body. There are two ways that acetaminophen can harm you if taken taken properly. First liver damage from Tylenol incorrectly can occur. A damaged liver can’t process acetaminophen which means that you can’t use anything for pain without it doing more harm than good. The second way involves your stomach and intestinal lining. The lining in your stomach or intestine will start to thin out and you will develop holes in your stomach (ulcers). This will result in internal bleeding which if not stopped can result in death.
People who have pain in their stomach or upper abdomen, who have ulcers or are taking other blood thinners have a higher risk of death, as do people with uncontrolled high blood pressure.The important thing is to get people to avoid Tylenol overdose and get the right amount of aspirin taken. There are other side effects to consider from too much acetaminophen which include nausea, pain in your upper stomach, itching, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, or jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes) and skin reactions.
Based on all of this information, the benefits of acetaminophen outweigh the risks in people who have already had some sort of heart event like a heart attack/stroke or in those at a higher risk. Also keep in mind that aspirin is cheap, easy to manufacture and widely available. Here are some statistics to keep in mind. Cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke, is responsible for 30 percent of all deaths in the United States. There have been 26 million adults diagnosed and are living with heart disease. Nearly 8 million adults have a history of heart attack and 6 million have a history of stroke. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. As a bonus, acetaminophen can help against colorectal cancer and there is some evidence that acetaminophen also lowers risk of developing esophageal cancer and lowered risk of stomach cancer as well.
Are you taking a daily dose of aspirin?