Aspirin: should you take it?

aspirinThere was a big development in health care news this week.  The buzz is all about the latest guidelines on aspirin since our friends at the US Preventive Services Task Force updated the recommendations.  It came out in the Annals of Internal Medicine just this week on April 12, 2016.  Talk about “hot off the presses” reporting, eh?  This post is going to decipher the guidelines on who should take a daily aspirin to prevent heart attacks, stroke, and now even colon cancer.  I think this is one of the most important topics I’ve covered yet.

Consider the humble aspirin

  • Descendant of willow bark
  • Invented during the reign of Queen Victoria
  • Known to doctors and nerdy people (that may be redundant) as acetylsalicylic acid (aka ASA to prescription-writers)
  • Introduced by Bayer in 1899 as a powder to treat rheumatic conditions like gout
  • Has been used for centuries (maybe without knowing why) as a pain reliever
  • Almost certainly reduces risk of heart attacks , strokes, and colon cancer.  Possibly reduces risks of esophageal, breast, ovarian, and maybe some other cancers as well.

Should I take an aspirin?

I should note that I’m going to stick to people who have NOT had a heart attack or stroke.   Those people certainly need some kind of anti-platelet treatment and aspirin is one of the best choices for many reasons and may be helpful for secondary prevention of future problems.  Here we are referring to primary prevention which means trying to prevent heart attack and stroke (and we can add colorectal cancer) in people who have never had these conditions.

So let’s get to it.  What do the new guidelines say? Continue reading “Aspirin: should you take it?”

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Every 8 seconds: the science of brain injury with Dr. Uzma Samadani

There’s big news from HCMC this week.  Many know that HCMC is the largest provider of TBI care in the state of Minnesota.  But many don’t know that we are also a major research institution and in no area is this more true than TBI.

The big news is that our researchers are launching the largest single-center study of brain injury in the United States.  It’s been all over the news – check out the buzz this is getting in the national media.


But I don’t have to go to the national media, I just have to walk down the hall to talk with people who are quite literally the country’s leading researchers.  So I dropped by the laboratory of Dr. Uzma Samadani (<–click for her bio) here at HCMC.  She’s super cool even when I gave her only 10 minutes notice before showing up in her office!  Check out the short video clip above – and be sure to listen to the end to hear Dr. Samadani’s important advice about protecting kids from concussion/TBI.  For a more in-depth perspective from Dr. Samadani, click on the TedMed video below (it’s only 6 minutes long).

Eye tracking

Every 8 seconds someone has a traumatic brain injury.  But you may be surprised to learn that doctors really don’t have great answers to the most basic questions like:

Do I have a brain injury?  How bad is it?  Where is it in my brain?

That is what the researchers hope to answer.

Shakira’s hips

Shakira’s hips?  Huh?  Rather than have me try to explain it – watch this brief talk by Dr. Samadani herself.  It is fascinating.

So Dr. Samadani and her team are doing research based on the knowledge that you can actually track the movements of a patient’s eyes to help answer these questions.  As it is now, doctors wave their finger in front of a patient like we have been doing for centuries.  The researchers are hoping to change that by studying all sorts of ways to diagnose brain injury – using blood tests, eye tracking, and imaging (x-rays and pictures and the like) . The eye tracking technology in particular could be game-changing in the way we diagnose and treat brain injury.  For more on eye tracking, click here.

I am convinced that some day the research being done right here at Hennepin County Medical Center and the University of Minnesota will change the lives of millions of people.

That excites me!

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Live to 100 or die trying

You can always pick different parents.  Well, maybe not.

Recently I was on WCCO-TV, Channel 4 in Minnesota, to appear in the popular segment done by Heather Brown, called Good Question.  This week’s question was about “How to live to 100” and I gave some tips.  Click the picture below to see the piece and see the video – but really listen to Mr. Richard Mann, the gentleman who appears in the segment.  This 101 year old guy was seen shoveling snow the other day up here in Minnesota.  He starts out with “I love my life” – I want to be like this guy so much.

Here’s the video of the segment.  Click here or on the picture to see the video.

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But what can you do to live to 100 years old?  Or maybe the better question is, do you even want to live to 100?

Over the years I have given a talk/workshop to various groups of people called “How to live to 100 or die trying” in which we explore these questions.  There is lots to talk about, and so in future posts I’ll be exploring ways to live healthy, including living to 100.  After all, there are some things you can do (don’t smoke, eat right, exercise, get certain tests), but much of it is out of our control (picking your parents, for instance).

And almost more interesting to me – outside of eat this and don’t eat that, or exercise this much, or get this test but not that one – is about our mental state of mind as we age.  I close almost all my “Live to 100” talks with the advice to not worry so much about things we cannot control.  It goes something like this:

Continue reading “Live to 100 or die trying”

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