By Mila McManus, MD
Mainstream medicine and media continue to express uncertainty regarding the use of aspirin to protect against cardiovascular disease. A large primary-prevention trial recently concluded that there is no straightforward evidence that taking low dose aspirin is either beneficial or harmful for healthy older adults. Over the five year study, the rate of heart disease was not significantly lower in those taking 100 mg of aspirin daily compared with peers taking a placebo tablet. The study did find that those taking the aspirin had much higher odds for a major bleeding episode.
What should you do? First, whatever choice you make should be done in collaboration and partnership with your medical provider. Each of us is different on many levels, a core belief in our practice as functional medicine providers. What is good for one person may not be ideal or wise for another. Secondly, there are many nutritional and supplemental approaches to protect against cardiovascular disease and blood clotting without resorting to aspirin.
Our food choices always have an enormous impact on our overall health. Cleaning up the diet, moving away from packaged, processed, and fast foods toward more organic vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits will always provide increased protection against any disease. There are common food sources believed to be natural blood thinners. The most well-known include turmeric, ginger, garlic, cayenne peppers, cinnamon, and food sources for Vitamin E such as almonds and sunflower seeds. Two Chinese herbs that may reduce blood clotting are Dong Quai (a.k.a. female ginseng) and ginkgo. These are both found in teas, supplements, and energy drinks. Bromelain, an enzyme extracted from pineapple is also believed to thin the blood, break down blood clots and reduce clot formation. More is not always better, so it is wise to discuss supplemental intake of these herbs and spices with your medical provider. Several of them should not be taken prior to surgical procedures due to their potential blood thinning effect.
Our practice has also found turmeric, krill/fish oil, vitamin C, and proteases among others, to be beneficial in a multitude of ways, including blood clot prevention. With informed medical advice, it is highly likely that you can identify supplemental and lifestyle changes which will help to maximize your overall health profile while also preventing blood clots. It can be easy to succumb to the power of good advertising and end up taking far too many supplements which can be expensive, falsely advertised, and unnecessary. Allow us to help you make intelligent choices.