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Aspirin for healthy runners.

As a regular runner, you are very likely a diet- and health-conscious individual as well. You have made lifestyle choices that lower your risk of coronary artery disease. However, despite your fitness level and diet, you may still have one or more risk factors for heart disease.

Assuming you don't smoke, there may be other risk factors you cannot escape, such as: diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or a family history of early heart disease. If you are healthy but have one or more of these risk factors, you can lower your risk by taking aspirin daily.

The lowly aspirin pill (now barely given a nod for pain relief having been beaten by newer generation non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications), has a great many under-appreciated attributes. Various research studies have reported, in addition to stroke and heart attack prevention, a lower risk of colon and rectal cancer, lower risk of cataracts, fewer migraines for those who suffer migraine headaches, possible immune system boosts, lower risk of Alhzeimer's disease, and possible control for influenza infections.

But before you run out and buy a jumbo bottle of this wonder drug, recognize that it is a drug with risks that must be balanced against its benefits. Some postulate that if aspirin were discovered today it would be available only by prescription. Risks associated with aspirin include bleeding, gastric ulcers, tinnitis (earringing), Reye's syndrome (a rare complication usually in children with chicken pox and fin), and serious problems for some allergy and asthma sufferers.

Despite risks, it has been well-accepted that anyone with coronary artery disease should take a very small dose of daily aspirin to reduce the risk of a heart attack. Until now, doctors have thought that the slight increase in risk aspirin can cause for a certain kind of stroke (the relatively rare hemorrhagic stroke) did not make it a suitable treatment for healthy people. Although there is still some controversy, new information has changed at least some doctors' opinions. A recent meta-analysis (a big study of reported research) suggests that for healthy individuals over 50, with at least one risk factor for coronary artery disease, relative risks may lean in favor of aspirin use. The risk of heart attack and the more common type of stroke exceeds the very slight increase in risk for hemorrhagic stroke caused by a small daily dose of aspirin.

If you fall into this category, talk to your doctor about aspirin. There are many was to improve your risk profile for heart disease. Being a runner is one of the most important tools you have, but diet, cholesterol-lowering drugs, blood pressure medications, and now daily aspirin may go even further to reduce your risk. Some doctors may even to so far as to recommend daily aspirin for health adults without increased risk of heart disease. If you're interested, be sure to discuss aspirin's benefits and risks with your doctor. Long-term daily use should only be with a doctor's advice and consent.

(Journal of the American Madical Association, 1998, Vol. 280, No. 22, pp. 1930-1935
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Running & Fitness Association
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Publication:Running & FitNews
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 1999
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