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Blindness/aspirin link is found to be bad science

Apr. 06, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Sometimes writers have to straighten out other writers: For example, Samuel Clemens once sent a cable to The Associated Press to correct a faulty story. "Reports of my death," he wrote, "are greatly exaggerated." Well, here are a couple of misleading headlines we feel obliged to straighten out: "Aspirin Linked to Blinding Eye Disease" and "Aspirin Triples Chance of Blindness Disease."

Here's the B.S. -- that's bad science -- behind the study: In 1997, researchers asked around 2,400 people 49 and older to fill out a questionnaire about their lifestyle and medication usage. Eleven percent reported regular aspirin use. Fifteen years later, researchers found 63 people from that group had developed wet macular degeneration (WMD), a condition in which abnormal blood vessel growth in the center of the retina distorts vision. Of those people, about 22 percent reported regular aspirin use. Triple the risk of WMD!? Pretty flimsy data.

Also, according to the researchers, they never asked about aspirin dosage; they assumed 150 mg daily. And they asked only about taking aspirin at the beginning of the survey, so they had no way of knowing if participants stopped, continued or increased their dose or if they started taking aspirin regularly as they got older.

Our advice: If you're at risk for WMD -- you smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or are obese, 65 or older or Caucasian -- and you're taking daily aspirin, talk to your doctor. Our recommendation is STILL two 81 mg tablets of baby aspirin a day, with a half glass of warm water before and after. The benefits vastly outweigh the risks.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com.