Aspirin the new Wonder drug – and a certain Dr. Lawrence Craven.

ID-100102453I awoke this morning to Aspirin being promoted once again as the new super tablet. In my younger days an aspirin was taken for a headache or mild fever, or maybe the odd ache or pain. No Paracetamol or Ibuprofin at that time, an aspirin or nothing.

In the mid/late 1980’s on UK breakfast television aspirin began to be promoted by the in-house doctor as the must take tablet if one suffered high blood pressure or had a history of heart attacks or strokes in the family.

‘If everyone at risk takes a small dose of aspirin a day it will save thousands of lives a year,’ he maintained. Those at risk from thrombosis on long air flights, where moving around was a problem, were also recommended to take aspirin. One a day for a couple of days before, and while flying, helped to reduce the risk of clots.

Today aspirin is again all over the health news programmes, its properties though, were known many years previously. Willow bark, known to contain the same properties, was regularly used as far back as the Greek era by Hippocrates and Galen, although they didn’t understand exactly how it worked.

A little known American doctor, Lawrence L. Craven born in 1883, provided the first documented evidence, of his use of aspirin for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes. This was compiled over years of treating a large percentage of susceptible patients with aspirin and resulted in four papers, written by him, being published in various little known medical journals.

It was only when one of the papers was reproduced by the Los Angeles Times; his younger brother was an assistant editor, the other papers came to light, to be more closely studied by the medical fraternity.

The downside of Dr. Craven’s discoveries was they were not carried out under controlled conditions as we know them today. His findings and subsequent published papers were based more on journal type diary entries after appointments with his patients.

None-the-less, his findings, observations and conclusions are uncannily close to the findings of modern day research. The optimum age group for those prescribed aspirin in his papers is 45 to 65 years old, the same age span mentioned in today’s news.ID-100230425

These recently released research findings, a study of over 200 cases over ten years, not only confirmed its benefits for those at risk of cardiovascular disease, but new research has found its properties can also reduce the risk of dying from bowel, oesophageal and stomach cancer by some 30-40%. Further research is being carried out to ascertain whether it can become a regular part of cancer fighting treatments.

Ironically, Dr Craven died in 1957 of a heart attack, but at the age of 74, he fell outside his own age criteria, and would no-doubt have stopped taking the aspirin prior to the attack.

Having been diagnosed during this mid 1980’s period as suffering hypertension, I had a word with my then GP. ‘Nothing’s really been proved’, he said, ‘but it won’t do you any harm.’ And so an aspirin a day was added by me to my prescribed blood pressure medication.

To this day I still take my daily tablet although, after watching today’s news items, maybe I need to check how much longer to keep taking it. Those considering adding aspirin to their daily medication as a preventive, should first check with their GP.

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