Risks and benefits of taking low-dose aspirin

Q. A friend who knows I take low-dose aspirin emailed me an article from a natural health site saying daily aspirin is dangerous and could cause brain bleeding or make me go blind. It seemed extreme, but what do you think? — Len, Cleveland

A. We’ve said it before and we’ll for sure say it again: Weighing the ins and outs of aspirin therapy is a lot like trying to solve your first Rubik’s cube. There’s no question that it reduces your risk of heart attack, stroke and deep-vein thrombosis. That’s why aspirin’s strongly recommended for men over 45 and women over 55. Then, last year, two massive studies found that plain, low-dose aspirin slashed your risk of dying from nine scary cancers — including colon, prostate, brain, lung and pancreas — by an average of 30 percent.

But while we’re big believers in daily aspirin for the right people and think it’s widely underused, it’s not right for everyone. Regular use can trigger major stomach and brain bleeding. Deciding requires sorting out your personal risks and benefits. If you didn’t talk with your doctor before starting aspirin, do it now.

Q. I broke my toe seven weeks ago and have been keeping it “buddy taped.” How long do I have to do this? I recently had a hip replacement on the same side as the bum toe, and need others to tape it. — Susan, Sandusky, Ohio

A. Broken toes are as pervasive as iPods. Tripping over the doorstep, dropping a frozen turkey on your foot, kicking the tires on a new snowblower … there are countless ways to fracture one of your 28 little toe bones. You rarely need a cast for a simple toe fracture unless it’s the big toe, and not always then. Enter buddy taping: supporting the injured toe by gently taping it to the one next to it, after placing some gauze or cotton between them to prevent blisters.

It should be fine for you to stop the buddy taping. Simple toe fractures take about six weeks to heal, as long as nothing goes awry. You’d know if it had. Next step (bad doctor joke): Start easing your way back into shoes. Just try to avoid anything snug for about three months, or your toe will throw a fit.

Q. I saw a dermatologist recently because an old mole seemed to be getting larger. The mole turned out to be fine, but on the way home I had what you may think is a crazy question: What is skin’s “job”? What does it do? — Kerri, New York

A. We YOU Docs get asked lots crazier questions than that. (Watch Dr. Oz’s show any weekday!) Sometimes it seems like the main purpose of skin is to sell magazines and movie tickets, but its real job is to protect your most valuable assets from the outside world: your heart, brain, bones, blood, nerves, muscles, the works. It also wraps them up in a nice-looking package so that you’re not a blobby organism.

In addition, skin is your first line of defense against infection, fending off millions of germs, chemicals and other contaminants out to invade you. It helps regulate your body temperature and, of course, lets you touch and be touched, so you sense pain (“Ouch, that’s hot!”), feel pleasure and express love.

Skin does one more genius thing: When the sun shines on it, your skin makes vitamin D-3, which is essential for keeping your heart, bones, memory and blood pressure humming along.

The YOU Docs — Mehmet Oz, host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen of Cleveland Clinic — are the authors of “YOU: Losing Weight.” For more information go to www.RealAge.com.

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