Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Aspirin risks may outweigh benefits in healthy adults

Healthy adults who take daily aspirin to stave off heart disease may be inviting more harm than benefit, according to a new review of past studies.

Adults face a crush of conflicting health messages about aspirin and the role it plays as a preventive medicine.

In an attempt to bring clarity to the topic, UK researchers sifted through the most recent evidence from nine randomized controlled trials - which are considered medicine's gold standard - and other systematic reviews of such trials. They found a total of 27 studies between 2008 and 2012 that fell within their criteria.

"Too many healthy people think that aspirin will prevent heart attacks and cancer," said Dr. Peter Sandercock of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Sandercock has extensive research experience in this subject, but was not involved in the current study.  "This shows that if you are healthy, with no symptoms of cardiovascular disease, then it's not sensible to take regular aspirin. It won't improve your health," he told Reuters Health.

The study, he said, reminded him of another recent report that suggested vitamin supplements may not have clear benefits for healthy people (see Reuters Health story of December 16, 2013, here: http://reut.rs/1eovMRe).

"There is a plethora of evidence in this area but nobody has drawn together the advantages and disadvantages of aspirin in a systematic way," said Paul Sutcliffe of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick in England.  He led the study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

"We need to be extremely careful about promoting the daily use without fully understanding all the evidence," Sutcliffe told Reuters Health.  "All I would say is to not stop taking aspirin without talking to your doctor," he added.

People who have had strokes or heart attacks have a hardening of their arteries, which leads to the formation of blood clots, Sandercock said. Various cardiovascular diseases contribute to the formation of these clots and daily aspirin is widely known to break down those clots and prevent further problems, he added.

Past research has generally shown that a person who experiences a minor stroke has a zero to 15 percent chance of experiencing another stroke the following year, Sandercock said.  "Aspirin could reduce the stroke risk by one-quarter, and that big benefit outweighs the small bleeding risk," Sandercock said.

In their review, Sutcliffe and his colleagues linked regular aspirin intake to the avoidance of 33 to 46 deaths from any cause in 10,000 people over a 10-year period. However, 46 to 49 major bleeds and 68 to 117 gastrointestinal bleeds in 10,000 people in a 10-year period also occurred as a result.

This translates to a 37 percent increased risk of stomach bleeding and 38 percent increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke, the researchers report.

"The study is just another meta-analysis of published overall trial results and contains no new data," said Dr. Peter Rothwell, a clinical neurologist at the University of Oxford in England. He was not involved in the current study.

"The question of the balance of risk and benefit of aspirin is important," Rothwell wrote in an email. "But superficial meta-analyses of very limited published data are not, unfortunately, able to cast any useful light."

Sandercock noted that "science is cumulative."  "Health messages get very confusing in the press - for example, you hear butter is good for you and then that you shouldn't eat butter," Sandercock said.

"Sometimes we need to remind people of good health messages like this one," he added, which shows that "If you are healthy, the harms of daily aspirin cancel out the benefits


They're already called 'vertically challenged' - but are short people intellectually challenged too?

The connection between height and IQ is well known.  It is however usually expressed as tall men being brighter

They are already cursed with the rather unflattering label of ‘vertically challenged’.

Now experts say short people may also be intellectually challenged too - or at least in comparison to their taller counterparts.

A new study has found a link between IQ and height, suggesting that those who are shorter are on average more likely to be less intelligent.

Academics identified genes that influence both height and IQ, and said there was a ‘significant genetic correlation’ between the two factors.

The research, which covered more than 6,800 unrelated people, is the first to analyse DNA markers in such a way.

Riccardo Marioni, from Edinburgh University’s Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine, said the link was small but important.

He said: ‘We tested whether DNA-based genetic similarities among people related to their similarities in height and intelligence.

‘Previous studies have used twin or family data to examine similarities between height and intelligence, whereas ours was the first to examine this using actual DNA markers in unrelated people.

‘What we found was a small association between height and intelligence such that people who are taller tend to be smarter.’

The claim is likely to be disputed by millions in Britain who fall short of the average height, 5ft 3in for women and 5ft 9in for men.

One is certain to be John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, who at 4ft 5ins is dwarfed by his 5ft 11in wife, Sally.

But among those who appear to prove the theory is David Cameron, who is 6ft 1in is blessed with both height and intelligence.

Others include actress Kate Beckinsale, who studied French and Russian literature at Oxford and is fluent in both languages.

Stephen Fry, the host of QI, the puzzle-based television show, is 6ft 5in.

Marioni conducted his study in partnership with academics from Aberdeen University and University College London.

They based their findings on data compiled from thousands of people recruited for the Scottish Family Health Study between 2006 and 2011.

IQ was measured by tests which examined reaction times, powers of recall and linguistic ability.

Previous studies have linked short stature to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease.

Higher IQ has been linked to longevity and a decreased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and suicide.

Previous studies have also claimed that short-man syndrome, known as the Napoleon complex, does exist.  Researchers at Oxford University recently found that feeling smaller makes people paranoid, distrustful and scared of others.  In fact, men of about 5ft 4in have been shown to be 50 per cent more likely to be jealous and distrustful of their partners than those measuring 6ft 6in.

Studies have also claimed smaller people are more likely than taller ones to have poor mental health.


No comments: