Q: I keep hearing that aspirin protects you from a lot of serious health problems and that it can tear up your guts. Is it safe, and should I take it? — Nancy H., Chicago
A: All the info about aspirin that’s swirling around is enough to give you a headache! But we’ve been advocates of preventive aspirin therapy for a long time, and there is ever more evidence that, done right (and with your doctor’s OK), it can be mild on your gut and a very smart choice.
Some basic facts:
1. Aspirin may irritate the gastrointestinal tract, especially in high doses over a long period of time.
Solution: If you’re already prescribed a daily dose of aspirin, follow your doc’s advice! Otherwise, take two low-dose aspirins (81 mg): We do one in the morning and one in the evening, but you can take both at once if that’s easier for you. And always drink half a glass of warm water before and after you take the pill(s). Two, instead of one, low-dose aspirins doesn’t appreciably raise your risk of complication, and it more than doubles the heart benefits and anti-cancer protection.
2. Aspirin is an anticoagulant (that’s part of its benefit in preventing stroke).
Solution: Find out from your doc how it interacts with medications, supplements and herbs you’re taking and if you’re at risk for bleeding-related problems.
3. A small percentage of folks seem aspirin-resistant. The more likely reason they don’t benefit from aspirin therapy? They take just one coated (enteric) aspirin, which seems to decrease absorption in some people!
Solution: Aspirin-resistant? Never coated and always with those glasses of warm water!
What else can aspirin do? Two large meta-studies concluded that low-dose aspirin reduces the incidence of colon, esophageal, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers by almost 40 percent, and for some folks with a particular genetic mutation, it slashes the risk of colon cancer by 82 percent (it starts protecting in 90 days).
If taken for five years, it cuts the risk of melanoma 30 percent in Caucasian women. Low-dose aspirin also cuts the risk of all those cancers spreading by 35 percent to 40 percent. And it reduces the risk of cognitive decline related to cardiovascular problems, and at the same time quells bodywide inflammation. That reduces your risk for impotence and wrinkles!
Q: My husband and I are in our early 40s and very healthy. He does triathlons, and I run between six and eight 10K’s a year. We’ve been trying to conceive for two years, but no go. Will in-vitro fertilization work for us? — Gracie J., Portland, Ore.
A: Well, the National Institutes of Health says the chances you’ll conceive with just one round of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is 12 percent between ages 41 and 43, and a little better than 3 percent after age 45. So before you try IVF, consider this: Getting pregnant could be hindered by the high temperatures your husband’s sperm experience during or after a run.
You could get a lab exam of his current sperm quality. If it’s compromised, consider having him do shorter, less temperature-increasing workouts for a couple of months. Then have his sperm re-examined. In the meantime, relax and enjoy sex! Many times, that will do the trick.
If you do opt for IVF, there have been a lot of advances in fertility treatments. The science of choosing the healthiest sperm to implant into the healthiest egg is improving, so while success percentages based on old technology don’t look so good, some fertility experts believe that with the latest advances, your chances can be high as 66 percent.
There’s also a fairly new approach called mini IVF that minimizes the amount of chemicals and drugs used in fertility treatments; some claim that it also increases the chances of pregnancy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps a database of fertility-clinic success rates. Start there, and then talk to docs and other women who have gone through the process before deciding what’s right for you and your husband.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.