Last week I discussed the difficulties I’m having trying to adapt to being a senior citizen. I’m very new at this, having joined the ranks of the Geezer Brigade just a few short years ago. There are no training classes or instruction manuals to offer guidance on the proper behaviors and protocols for those of us in our 60s and beyond, so I’m just kind of muddling my way through it.
Here is a perfect example of how difficult this can be. A couple of years ago, my doctor suggested I start taking a baby aspirin each day to lower the risk of heart troubles. Apparently, good ol’ aspirin helps reduce the chances that goop (the official technical medical term) will stick to the inside walls of a person’s arteries and cause a blockage.
So, I started taking a tiny aspirin tablet every morning. They even sell it with a little heart shape on the bottle and the words “Heart Healthy.” Senior citizens, ironically, are now the key target market for St. Joseph’s Baby Aspirin.
Anyway, this morning I received an urgent email message from A.A.R.P. The email was titled, “New Advice on Daily Aspirin.” Recent scientific studies have discovered that a daily aspirin regiment may help heart health a little, but the benefit is greatly outweighed by a 38 percent increase in gastrointestinal bleeding. So, the aspirin is doing the “anti-goop” thing in the heart arteries, but at the same time it is doing the “spring a leak in the gut blood vessels thing,” too. (“Spring a leak in the gut blood vessels thing” is, of course, also the official technical medical term.)
Here is a summary of the new guidelines: If you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, then you should keep taking the daily aspirin. If you’ve never had a heart attack or stroke, then don’t take the baby aspirin as the intestinal bleeding risk is worse.
However, the scary email concluded with this delightful advice: “Don’t stop taking a daily aspirin cold turkey. It can create a rebound effect that can trigger a heart attack. A 2017 Swedish study found that abruptly stopping a daily aspirin raised the risk of a heart attack or stroke by 37 percent.”
Oh, great. I’ve been taking a baby aspirin every day for two years. What am I supposed to do now? I’ve never had a heart attack or stroke, so I shouldn’t be taking the aspirin. But if I stop, the heart attack and stroke odds go way up. Sheesh.
The only specific suggestion the email offered was to talk your doctor about it. Yeah, but he’s the guy who told me to take the aspirin in the first place. By the way, he also is the guy who asked me, during my annual physical a few month ago, if I wanted to start taking cholesterol medication. “Why should I do that?” I asked. “You’ve been telling me for the past ten years my cholesterol is fine.”
“Well, they recently changed the guidelines,” he explained.
Oh really? “They” changed the guidelines. Who exactly are “they”? The pharmaceutical companies that make cholesterol pills?
As my woeful story clearly indicates, it’s not easy being a senior citizen nowadays. the rules keep changing. I wish there were training classes or instruction manuals.
But now that I think about it, it was very easy and instinctive for me to start complaining about pharmaceutical companies. As everyone knows, this is a requirement for all seniors. (Along with the other requirement of discussing in graphic detail all of your recent medical procedures.)
Maybe I can get the hang of this without any training after all. Hey, let me show you my surgery scar!