You're probably already aware of aspirin's ability to ward off cardiovascular catastrophes such as heart attack and stroke. Maybe you wake up every day and pop an aspirin with breakfast, along with whatever other vitamins or supplements you take daily. And you probably know it has powerful cancer-preventive effects, including against colon and rectal cancer, esophageal cancer and even prostate and breast cancer. And it helps prevent deep vein thromboses (DVTs) or clots in your leg veins if you take hormone therapy.
But here are two fun facts about making this over-the-counter medicine a part of your daily ritual that you might not know: It can slow down skin aging and prevent acne.
Oh, and a third: The time of day that you take it might help intensify its cardiovascular benefits.
Aspirin slows down skin aging and prevents acne (and calms down current breakouts). The magic lies in its inflammation-fighting abilities, which is also what makes it a great pain reliever when you hurt yourself or have a searing headache.
Inflammation takes its toll on your skin in a variety of ways such as acne, rosacea and visible signs of aging, like wrinkles and sagging skin. Collagen is key to keeping your joints and your skin functioning younger; by boosting your skin structure, collagen helps it to look full, smoother and elastic. When that structure breaks down, your skin starts to sag, wrinkle and look less vibrant. High levels of inflammation also cause a faster rate of collagen breakdown, which accelerate the aging "look". (Log onto a site I helped found, YOUBeauty.com, for more information).
[Read: How Safe Are Your Cosmetics?]
Another key way aspirin can change your skin for the better is by preventing breakouts. The acetylsalicylic acid in aspirin is a close relative of salicylic acid, which dermatologists recommend in the treatment of acne. Though the compounds aren't quite the same, some people swear by aspirin masks to calm that big, red zit. Yes, that means simply crushing aspirin and mixing it with a few drops of water to make an acne spot treatment. It can reduce that nasty I-word (inflammation) and remove oil and dead skin cells, just like an exfoliating product. Check with your dermatologist first.
Although we've known about the benefits of this simple yet powerful drug for a while, new research is now giving us some more specific directions on how to get the most benefits out of this heart, immune and skin saver, suggesting that we can get the greatest benefits by taking aspirin right before we climb into bed at night.
Cardiovascular complications, including DVT from hormones, are about three times more likely to occur in the early morning, when blood pressure is at its highest and platelet activity is also at its peak. Aspirin helps counteract these by thinning the blood and preventing clumping, which is one of the processes leading to heart attack, stroke or DVT.
The study, conducted by researchers at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, instructed heart-disease patients to take their preventative aspirin when they first woke up for three months. Then, they were told to switch their routines for another three months, and instead, pop their pills at night.
Morning platelet activity was reduced significantly more when the medicine was taken at night as opposed to taken first thing in the morning. Less activity means that there is a reduced chance of clotting and therefore, a reduced chance of suffering a heart attack, stroke or DVT. The timing, however, had no effect on morning blood pressure.
If you currently take aspirin in the morning, making this change might be worth it (if you remember - the most important thing with any med is to remember to take it - and if that's more reliable in the morning, then don't switch). It's not going to do any harm, so why not take advantage of this finding, and switch things up to better protect yourself? Just work it into your nightly routine so that it becomes second nature. Your heart, your brain, your veins (maybe your lungs) and your complexion will thank you for it.
Taking a daily dose of aspirin can be beneficial, but like every medicine, it's not necessarily in every person's best interest. A major risk is bleeding (don't take the aspirin if you do extreme sports) as well as gastrointestinal upset and bleeding. You can minimize both by taking half a glass of warm water before and after your two baby aspirins a day (we recommend you discuss the dose with your doc). Only your doctor can help you decide if the benefits of daily aspirin will truly outweigh your risks, so consult with yours before adding aspirin to your daily routine. And if/when you do, place it on your bedside table to get into the healthy habit of taking it right before your head hits the pillow.
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An esteemed authority on health and wellness, Michael F. Roizen, MD, chairs the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, the first such position at anymajor healthcare institution. He is a former editor of six medical journals and has published more than 170 peer-reviewed scientific papers and four medicalbooks. Board-certified in internal medicine and anesthesiology, Roizen co-founded Real Age, Inc., a media company offering people the tools to lookand feel younger. His RealAge series of books as well as his "YOU" series, written with Health Corps founder Mehmet Oz, have become worldwide bestsellersincluding four No. 1 bestsellers in the U.S. and No. 1 bestsellers in at least 5 other countries. Roizen and Oz write a daily syndicated newspaper column that appears in over 130 newspapers. Roizen has appeared regularly on Oprah, Today, 20/20 and Good Morning America and has a 2-hour 26 station Terrestrial radio show. He is 67 calendar years of age, but his RealAge is 48.2.