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February 17, 2011

Does everyone need an “aspirin regimen”?

Filed under: Health — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:00 am

After I was hospitalized for a stoke last year, I was given prescriptions for blood pressure medication, statin drugs and coated baby aspirin.  I was told that this combination of medications was for prevention of future strokes, for which I had a high risk.

At the hospital, I was told that I had suffered a CVA which means Cerebral Vascular Accident.  I took great comfort in the term CVA because to me “stroke” is a bad word; calling it an “Accident” means that the patient is not to blame.  At no time did the doctors and nurses at the hospital blame me for what had happened; it was an accident that could have happened to anyone.  (Actually, I knew that I was to blame because I had been eating a lot of salty potato chips with sour cream dip and not exercising as much as I should have.)

A couple of days later, I went to a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor and asked for an acupuncture treatment to repair the damage caused by the stroke.  The first question he asked me was “Are you taking blood thinner medication?”  Actually, I had asked the Western doctors in the hospital for a blood thinner, but I was told that baby aspirin was all I needed. After over six months on an “aspirin regimen,” I learned that aspirin might do more harm than good and that aspirin can raise blood pressure.

My TCM Chinese doctor explained to me that blood thinner medication is bad because your blood needs to clot in case you have a stroke that is caused by bursting a blood vessel in your head.

The doctors at the hospital didn’t bother to tell me that there are two kinds of strokes.  I learned that from my Chinese doctor.  One kind of stroke is caused by a blood clot blocking the flow of blood in part of the brain. This is called an ischemic stoke. Another kind of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke; this is caused by bleeding from a burst blood vessel in the brain or on the surface of the brain. If you have a hemorrhagic stroke, you want your blood to clot as fast as possible before you have some serious damage to the brain.

If you have an ischemic stroke, as I did, an aspirin regimen may help prevent a second ischemic stroke, but aspirin will not prevent hemorrhagic strokes. In fact, aspirin use slightly increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke.  My stroke was caused by a blood pressure spike; my blood pressure went up to 205/100 and this caused a piece of plaque in my carotid artery to shoot up into my brain.  At the hospital I was given medication to dissolve the clot; I was told when I was released that my carotid artery was now clear.

If you watch TV, you know that aspirin is highly advertised to prevent heart attacks and stroke.  But I have learned that a person who has weak kidneys should not do an “aspirin regimen.”  Blood pressure is controlled by the kidneys and weak kidneys can cause high blood pressure; aspirin can raise your blood pressure.

I keep a bottle of regular aspirin handy so that I can chew an aspirin in case of a heart attack, but after I stopped the “aspirin regimen,” I finally got my blood pressure under control.

My Chinese doctor even warned me not to eat too much garlic because garlic thins the blood.  I had been eating as many as 15 cloves of garlic a day in an effort to lower blood pressure.  Now I limit my garlic consumption to 3 cloves per day.