Aspirin has been considered an excellent over-the-counter remedy for everything from headaches to colds to relieving sore muscles. There is evidence, though, that these common, ubiquitous pills pack a serious health punch. In many ways an aspirin is the little pill that could.

For example, infectious diseases like pneumonia are not always thought of as causes of death, but studies show that pneumonia is in the top five causes of death in the elderly. In fact, pneumonia is one of the most serious infectious diseases an elderly person can contract, as it causes 40 percent of deaths among the elderly who are in the hospital for other issues. The people at highest risk are patients who are very elderly and female, but any elderly person needs to be concerned about this respiratory illness that takes so many lives prematurely, making it almost as dangerous as the more famous mortal diseases of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Simple aspirin can lower pneumonia's death toll.

Aspirin to the Rescue

Researchers have found that the mortality rate from pneumonia can be decreased through aspirin therapy. Studies have been conducted regarding the effectiveness of aspirin in patients with both Community Acquired Pneumonia (CAP) and Hospital Care Associated Pneumonia (HCAP) to determine the effectiveness of aspirin in preventing early death (a death that occurs within thirty days of hospitalization for pneumonia).

The study showed that the group of people who took aspirin during their hospital stay had a lower risk of mortality within thirty days than those who did not take aspirin. In addition, the study showed that there was a decreased need for intensive care stays and extended hospital stays in the patients who took low-dose aspirin therapy. The total decrease in death was 4.9%.

The experts believe that the decrease in mortality and complications is a result of users taking aspirin in a preventive manner to help offset the risk of heart disease. Pneumonia is not only a respiratory issue; because of the strain it puts on the heart when the lungs struggle to get air, many patients suffer subsequent cardiovascular events as a result of having pneumonia. Because of these cardiovascular events, without proper treatment, death often occurs within thirty days of contracting the infection. For example, people have a much higher likelihood of experiencing a stroke in the early stages of pneumonia. Aspirin, an anti-inflammatory drug that lowers the rate of cardiovascular issues, can help.

Aspirin Helps Save Cardiovascular Patients

Sometimes the events are reversed; patients with cardiovascular issues contract pneumonia, complicating their health issues. Regardless of the order in which they occur, pneumonia first or cardiovascular events first, elderly patients are at high risk for death as a result of the combination of the two illnesses.

Pneumonia is a serious illness, as it has a high mortality rate when not properly treated. If an elderly person is struggling with cardiovascular issues or is at risk for penumonia, it would be good to have a conversation with a doctor about aspirin therapy. Aspirin does double duty in helping to save an elderly person's life when confronted with either pneumonia or cardiovascular issues or their interactions.

The Little Pill with the Big Punch

When it comes to the diseases that are even higher on the mortality list than pneumonia, aspirin is being seen as an inexpensive and readily available drug that has many benefits. Aspirin has been shown to prevent cancers and their attendant deaths by significant percentages-as high as 50% in the case of esophageal cancer, for example. A study published in the Annals of Oncology shows that with long term use of aspirin, its great benefits outweigh its significant risks (bleeding being the biggest risk) as it results in reductions in mortality from colorectal cancer, stomach cancer, and esophageal cancer. While it may reduce lung, prostate, and breast cancer too, the results were considered too preliminary to warrant those particular claims.

Once again, starting an aspirin regime should always be preceded by a talk with a physician. However, that common bottle in almost everyone's medicine cabinet can pack a very heavy health punch.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Trends in Causes of Death Among the Elderly. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ahcd/agingtrends/01death.pdf. Accessed on August 8, 2016.

Cuzick, J., Thorat, M. A., Bosetti, C., Brown, P.H., Brun, J., Cook, N. R., et al. (August 5, 2014). Estimates of benefits and harm of prophylactic use of aspirin in the general population. Annals of Oncology, Oxford Journals. Retrieved from http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/07/30/annonc.mdu225.full?sid=5264bfdf-8a0d-4a9e-8f21-995b555f062a. Accessed August 11, 2016.

Falcone, M., Russo, A., Cangemi, R., Farcmeni, A., Calvieri, C., Barilla, F., Scarpellini, M. G., et al. (2015).

Lower Mortality Rate in Elderly Patients With Community-Onset Pneumonia on Treatment With Aspirin. Journal of the American Heart Association. Retrieved from http://jaha.ahajournals.org/content/4/1/e001595.long. Accessed on August 8, 2016.

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