Does An Aspirin a Day Really Keep the Heart Attack Away?
Well the “medical experts” seem to think so. The idea of a taking a daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks has been wavering between “in favor of” and “against” for quite some time.
And as the pendulum now swings, the medical advice is once again, “Yes to Aspirin!”
Per the Mayo Clinic:
“Aspirin therapy reduces the clumping action of platelets — possibly preventing heart attack and stroke.”
On the surface, this sounds reasonable. But before I take this as fact, I’d like to do a bit more investigating into just how an aspirin can truly help prevent a heart attack or stroke.
The major culprit that has been linked to a heart attack or stroke is known as arteriosclerosis.
Arteriosclerosis is basically a fancy word for the hardening of the arteries due to a substance known as plaque. Plaque is mainly comprised of cholesterol (fat) and fibrous tissue, and though it can indeed cause health problems, it isn’t as bad as you may think. In fact, it is actually part of a normal healing process within the body.
When an artery becomes damaged, plaque is a means by which the artery is repaired. The problems occur when there is continuous damage to the artery which results in a build-up of plaque. The build-up causes that particular part of the artery to lose its elasticity and eventually harden.
This process isn’t much different than if you cut your leg. As your leg heals, the added tissues leave a scar. The tissue that makes up that scar is not as flexible as the original tissue before the injury.
So, once a section of the artery becomes blocked with plaque, blood can no longer flow through the artery resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
However, plaque doesn’t just appear magically at the site of a damaged artery or blood vessel. A damaged area first requires an influx of blood (as with any area of inflammation), and with this influx of blood comes the platelets which are responsible for coagulation (clotting of the blood).
In 2005, The Journal of Clinical Investigation linked inflammation with platelets and the development of the dangerous plaque on arteries:
“Platelets represent an important linkage between inflammation, thrombosis, and atherogenesis (plaque)…”
Normally this isn’t a health problem; in fact, you would not even notice this had happened. However, if the area was already damaged with a layer of plaque, and then is damaged again, the narrowing could now be significant enough to cause a blockage.
So How Does an Aspirin Help?
Taking an aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) impedes the clotting action of the blood (platelets) at the area of injury. So even if the area already has plaque, and thus the artery has been narrowed, an aspirin prevents the clotting so the obstruction does not occur.
But, is this the best method of heart attack prevention? Furthermore, is this truly prevention or simply a Band-Aid?
What Causes the Inflammation in the First Place?
So far so good with this investigation! Our findings now lead us to the question of what causes inflammation to the arteries that results in damage and plaque in the first place.
In general, the allistic medical consensus is that this process is triggered by high cholesterol, specifically “bad” cholesterol or LDL; thus the onslaught of low-fat diets, butter substitutes, Lipitor and other “cholesterol” suppressors.
But is Cholesterol REALLY Dangerous?
There are many health experts who currently do not think so. One such expert is Dr. Briffa, a holistic medical doctor from England:
“In recent years, much attention has been focused on the need to control cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. However, studies suggest that cholesterol per se is not the problem. It is when cholesterol becomes damaged through a process known as ‘oxidation’ that it then has the propensity to settle on the inside of the body’s arteries.”
Wow! This sounds ground-breaking!
Well, not so fast.
In fact, this isn’t new knowledge at all! Many studies have, and continue to, prove that cholesterol itself is not dangerous.
And not only that—the findings are showing that we need cholesterol to be Healthy! And too low cholesterol is actually deadly.
If this is true, then what causes the damage and the plaque?
Cholesterol is only dangerous when it becomes oxidized. And once cholesterol is oxidized, it is known as oxysterol.
I would bet that most people who have had their cholesterol levels checked (“Know Your Numbers” as the saying goes) have never had their oxysterol levels checked—or have even heard of oxysterol!
And if oxysterol is the dangerous culprit, then what causes the oxidation of cholesterol?
Cholesterol just doesn’t oxidize itself; it first requires a catalyst. In order to achieve the chemical change from cholesterol to oxysterol, something such as heat, light, radiation and/or oxygen must trigger the reaction.
The following are some of the major factors in our lives that contribute to the oxidation of cholesterol:
1. Processed Foods containing artificial chemicals and preservatives, those subject to irradiation, etc.
An interesting study done in 2005, and published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, concluded the following:
“…Moreover, dietary oxidized cholesterol significantly increased aortic lesions in apo-E and LDL receptor-deficient mice. A typical Western diet is rich in oxidized fats and therefore could contribute to the increased arterial atherosclerosis in our population.”
2. Pollution including chemicals, pesticides, fossil fuels, etc.
A 2004 investigative study into cardiovascular mortality and long-term exposure to air pollution published in Circulation (major scientific journal for the American Heart Association) found the following:
“…Fine particulate air pollution is a risk factor for cause-specific cardiovascular disease mortality via mechanisms that likely include pulmonary and systemic inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and altered cardiac autonomic function…”
3. Smoking Cigarettes
Science has shown that cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung and pancreatic cancers. It is also a cause of heart attack and stroke due to, none-other-than, arteriosclerosis. A 2011 study published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine found:
“Cigarette smoking predisposes to the development of multiple diseases involving oxidative damage…Our findings confirm that certain oxidative damage biomarkers are elevated in smokers even after a period of abstinence from smoking, whereas these plus some others are elevated after acute smoking…”
With the FDA’s approval of processed foods and the many chemical additives (plus more recently GMO foods), the approval of over 400 chemicals found in cigarettes (over 20 are known to be carcinogenic), and the EPA’s approval of increasing the “safe” limits of pesticides and other environmental toxic chemicals, who is truly trying to stop (and prevent) the dangerous side-effects of the above listed factors?
Do we know of any business that would profit from all of this? Big Pharma and the numerous Pharmaceutical Drugs of course!
With nearly 5 million people affected by arteriosclerosis each year, one has to wonder about the ridiculousness of blaming butter for the plaque build-up!
If it was simply a question of eating low fat food, then why are there so many people who “eat right and exercise, but it’s still not enough” per the Lipitor commercials. Furthermore, why are more people sicker today than just a few decades ago?
Oxysterol, not cholesterol, triggers an inflammatory response in the arteries that results in an influx of blood (and platelets) to heal the area. This then results in scar tissue, which we call plaque. If this cycle continues, the added layers of plaque become thicker causing the artery to lose its elasticity. Ultimately, if the area becomes thick enough to block the blood flow through the artery, a heart attack or stroke may occur.
With that said, we can deduce that an aspirin, in fact, is only a Band-Aid as it “reduces the clumping action of the platelets” due to the inflammation and has the potential to stop the blockage of the artery.
So if aspirin is merely a Band-Aid, is there something more preventive and, more importantly, healing to the body?
And sadly, this is where medical science contradicts itself in a couple of ways!
- Medical science requires research and yet despite the research surrounding natural therapies, drugs are still their answer.
- Medical science is aware that the oxidation of cholesterol is the culprit, yet no meaningful changes are being made when it comes to chemical restrictions in our food, air or water!
If studies have indicated that the real problem is the oxidation of cholesterol, rather than the cholesterol itself, then wouldn’t preventing the oxidation be a better “preventative” measure than taking an aspirin to interfere with the clotting action of the blood in response to the damaged artery?
Indeed it would be. And there is a preventative option you have certainly heard of:
Antioxidants—specifically, Vitamin E.
Vitamin E: Powerful Antioxidant!
Vitamin E protects cholesterol from oxidation! Logic dictates that by reducing the oxidation, the potential damage is also then reduced. A review back in 1998 in Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition noted:
“…Vitamin E protects LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) from oxidation, and tocotrienols inhibit cholesterol synthesis—functions that may help protect against heart disease.”
“Some cell culture experiments suggest that tocotrienols may also inhibit cancer cell proliferation. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce oxidative stress in diabetics, thereby enhancing immune response. Additionally, vitamin E may play an important role in neurological diseases—some evidence shows that vitamin E protects nerve cells from oxidative stress or protein toxicity and may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Going back a few years earlier, a study published in Arteriosclerosis and Thrombosis: Journal of Vascular Biology / American Heart Association concluded,
“…These results show that vitamin E prevents endothelial dysfunction associated with cholesterol feeding and suggests that vitamin E may be beneficial in preventing functional impairment associated with atherosclerosis.”
Okay, all of this shows that Vitamin E is helpful in the prevention of atherosclerosis, but what if the condition already exists?
Since the role of aspirin is to prevent the adhesion of platelets, a fair question would be: Can vitamin E do the same?
The answer is Yes!
A study published in Nutrition Reviews found that Vitamin E indeed does the very same job as aspirin!
“…Vitamin E-induced inhibition of protein kinase C leads to decreased platelet pseudopodia formation upon stimulation by agonists, a process that is instrumental in reducing platelet adhesion…”
A more recent study published in 2010 in Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that Vitamin E is effective in preventing the oxidation of LDL and HDL.
“…The above evidence suggests that the antioxidants which inhibit oxidation of LDL and HDL should be effective for prevention of atherosclerosis and related diseases and numerous studies have been performed to examine the beneficial effect of antioxidants. It has been shown that the antioxidants which inhibit LDL oxidation in vitro are in general, if not always, effective for prevention of atherosclerosis in animal models.”
This sounds great right? But despite these findings, they conclude the following:
“ It may be unrealistic to expect that a few years of antioxidant supplementation can turn around the effects of oxidative stress on endothelium which lasted more than 30 years. In contrast to human trials, the animal studies are performed under the same lifestyle with the same diet, which may yield more consistent outcome than human trials.”
But is this evidence or speculation?
Evidence or Speculation?
Assuming this is, in fact, evidence, then my answer is…well of course it is going to take time to rid the body of something that took thirty years to accumulate!
Trying to get the public to change their diet to one that is healthier is an ongoing campaign. And with so many different view points as to what a healthy diet actually is, this campaign will continue into the unforeseeable future.
A must-read-article, Vitamin E and Heart Disease (Formally titled Vitamin E: The True Cost of Cynicism) by Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., lays out the bias of the medical “drug” profession against natural therapies, despite the research – in this case surrounding Vitamin E.
Now, although I do believe that Vitamin E does and can reverse the damage of years of oxidative stress, and that is a far better choice when it comes to “blood thinners” (Yes to Rat Poison! No to Vitamin E!), there is another natural weapon in the holistic box of natural cures that should be looked at…
And it is called Serrapeptase.
Life Extension Magazine had an interesting article titled, Serrapeptase: The natural anti-inflammatory:
“…When this enzyme is isolated and coated in the form of a tablet, it has been shown to act as an anti-inflammatory and a pain-blocker, much like aspirin, ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). What’s more, preliminary research indicates that Serrapeptase may even help inhibit plaque build-up in arteries, thereby preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and a resulting heart attack or stroke. Therefore, much like aspirin, this naturally derived enzyme may work to prevent inflammation, pain, heart attack and stroke. Unlike aspirin and other over-the-counter (OTC) NSAIDs, Serrapeptase has not been shown to cause ulcers and stomach bleeding…”
This is primarily based on the work of Dr. Hans Nieper, who found that;
“Serrapeptase dissolves only dead tissues such as the old fibrous layers that clog the lining of our arteries and dangerously restrict the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Because of this, Serrapeptase is extremely useful in keeping arterial deposits from building up again after angioplasty (a balloon technique used to clear an artery blockage) or coronary bypass surgery has been performed.”
So it would seem that there are options other than drugs when it comes to cholesterol! Plus, the potential negative side-effects of aspirin therapy and cholesterol lowering drugs could be avoided altogether!
Dr. Hans Nieper said it best when he said,
“NEVER accept substitutes when it comes to your health!”
- Oxidized fatty acids and cholesterol
- The Effects Of Air Pollution On Your Cholesterol
- The role of dietary oxidized cholesterol and oxidized fatty acids in the development of atherosclerosis.
- Air pollution, oxidative stress and dietary supplementation: a review
- Cardiovascular Mortality and Long-Term Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution
- Biomarkers of oxidative damage in cigarette smokers: which biomarkers might reflect acute versus chronic oxidative stress?
- Inhalation of steady-state sidestream smoke from one cigarette promotes arteriosclerotic plaque development
- Daily aspirin therapy: Understand the benefits and risks
- Vitamin E protects against impairment of endothelium-mediated relaxations in cholesterol-fed rabbits.
- Vitamin E, a modifier of platelet function: rationale and use in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.
- Do free radicals play causal role in atherosclerosis? Low density lipoprotein oxidation and vitamin E revisited
- Effect of vitamin E on oxidative stress status in small intestine of diabetic rat
- Serrapeptase: The natural anti-inflammatorySilk Worm Enzymes for Carotid Artery Blockage
- Vitamin E and Heart Disease