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Is Aspirin Advice Increasingly Hard to Swallow?

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Remember the advice to take aspirin even if you don't need it - because it can reduce the chances of heart attack and stroke?

That was then. This is now.

"Healthy people who take a daily dose of aspirin to reduce their risk of a heart attack or stroke, may be doing themselves more harm than good, new research suggests." (Huffington Post UK, 10/01/2012.)

The study in question concluded that over a six-year period aspirin usage prevented one non-fatal heart attack per 120 people. However, during the same period one in 73 people suffered from internal bleeding.

Lead researcher Dr Rao Seshasai recommended "those with a proven risk of cardiovascular disease" should keep doing what they have been doing. But he said for healthy folks aspirin's benefits are "far more modest than previously believed" and "may potentially result in considerable harm due to major bleeding".

As one commenter wrote in response to the Huffington Post article: "I wish they'd make their minds up...good...bad...g­ood...bad. I think I need an aspirin!"

Is medicine a flip-flopper?

It can be. As Gail Collins put it in an Op-Ed in the New York Times last year, aptly called Medicine on the Move:

We got word this week that estrogen therapy, which was bad, is good again. Possibly. In some cases.

This was not quite as confusing as the news last year that calcium supplements, which used to be very good, are now possibly bad. Although maybe not. And the jury's still out.

The article goes on to detail reversals and the reversing of reversals which suggest that while the scientific method is indeed methodical it is not consistently conclusive when it comes to healthcare.

Many would argue it is a strength of the scientific approach that further investigation uncovers new insights contrary to previous positions and this information is openly shared. There is merit to that view. It is certainly a far greater problem when negative findings are withheld.

But that is of little comfort if you are the aspirin-taker who has the internal bleeding, the person refusing estrogen only to be told you shouldn't have or the consumer of calcium supplements wishing you hadn't.

If well-meaning health advice has an inherent "use by" date after which it is no longer fit for purpose, is it any wonder the heart longs for something more consistent and dependable?

That was what my mother felt in the face of chronic health issues. Consequently she undertook her own research - a far-ranging investigation into alternative ways to combat the asthma that eventually took her life, despite the medical prescriptions she continued to rely on.

Among the approaches she turned up in her search was a spiritual approach to health care and cure based on a "fixed principle", articulated by Mary Baker Eddy in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

While my mother added bits of the book's wisdom to her smorgasbord of cherished ideas, she never adopted it as a health practice.

Yet I did, and it has become a liberating approach to dealing with health concerns.

I've learned that such spiritual practice isn't always plain sailing, but its results have been impressive enough to keep me digging deeper into the study of it. And each time I conscientiously research its metaphysical ideas I find the results consistently good.

In my case that has meant a life without needing drugs for over three decades.

Medical science itself is beginning to realise there is far more to medicine than just the contents of a pharmaceutical preparation. It has started posting interesting findings involving patients' and physicians' expectations accompanying the pill-popping process and the beneficial effect they can have on recovery.

As people demand access to medicines that offer consistency, this stripping down of the healing process to mental elements is going to be a key development in health care over the coming years.