Wouldn’t it be great if you could take a pill that would reduce your risk of heart attack, cancer and stroke? Not only does that pill already exist, it’s probably sitting in your medicine cabinet. The latest medical breakthrough? It’s aspirin!
If you have heart disease or its risk factors, taking one aspirin (or less) a day reduces your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin works by preventing the blood clots that cause most heart attacks and strokes. And aspirin’s effectiveness is virtually immediate—protection begins about 20 minutes after taking it.
Aspirin can also cut your risk of dying during a heart attack. Taking just half a regular-strength tablet as soon as a heart attack occurs, and for 30 days afterward, cuts your risk by nearly a quarter.
In a recent American Cancer Society (ACS) study, people who used aspirin daily for five or more years had a 15 percent lower cancer rate. The greatest reduction occurred in rates of colorectal and prostate cancer. Keep in mind that the ACS doesn’t currently recommend daily aspirin use for cancer prevention alone.
In three studies, more than 1,200 migraine sufferers were given either Extra Strength Excedrin (a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine) or a placebo. Even though migraines have been known to last for days, more than half of the Excedrin group reported their pain had diminished or disappeared after just two hours. After six hours, nearly 80 percent reported only mild or no pain. As a result of these studies, in 1998 the FDA added Extra Strength Excedrin to its list of effective migraine remedies.
And there’s more. Preliminary studies have shown that aspirin boosts the body’s immune system and may reduce the risk of cataracts and other eye diseases. It's safe to say that more than 100 years after its introduction, aspirin’s true medical legacy is just being revealed.