Recent evidence has also suggested that as well as preventing pain, heart disease and cancer, aspirin may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease, by approximately 10%. Although the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is still unclear, one suggestion is that the inflammation in the brain responsible for some of the mental deterioration. If proven to be correct, it may simply be aspirin’s anti-inflammatory response which reduces the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.
If so, then most other drugs of the NSAID’s class would also have the same effect. The evidence that long-term low dosage aspirin use reduces the levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, supports this idea, as C-reactive protein is a marker for inflammation. Another property of salicylate is its anti-oxidant effect that neutralizes free-radicals which harm tissue. These free-radicals are produces as a result of certain metabolic reactions that take place in the body. They have been associated with many serious illnesses, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
Many people believe that aspirin is so effective as salicylate should originally be a part of a healthy balanced diet. This is supported by the fact that many plant species release salicylate as a defence mechanism. Therefore, fruit and vegetables that are prone to this chemical release are more resistant to damage and disease. This is also supported by the fact that people who consume large amounts of fruit and vegetables have lower levels of heart disease and certain cancers.
In this day and age however, people do not consume the daily requirement of fruit and vegetables. Worse still, the salicylate content of fruit and vegetables is likely to be less then it used to be. Throughout history people have grown there own vegetables or bought them form local sellers. As the level of pests, diseases and physical damage to the fruit and vegetables has decreased, so to have the levels of salicylate within them. However, although aspirin has labelled itself as “the wonder drug for all manner of diseases”, there are a number of problems that are associated with its use.
As with almost all chemicals, the body has ways of getting rid of aspirin. In this case, the liver, stomach, and other organs change aspirin to salicylic acid. This chemical then gets altered in the liver in a slow and gradual process, attaching a number of other complex chemical onto the salicylic acid so that the kidneys can filter it out of the blood and send it to the excretory organs in the urine. This whole process takes approximately four to six hours, so another pill must be taken accordingly for the effect to last. This may become tedious after a certain amount of time.
The problem with the fact that aspirin travels through the entire bloodstream is that the body needs prostaglandins for a number of reasons, such as in the stomach. COX 1 enzymes produce a substance that maintains the thickness of the lining of the stomach. As aspirin inhibits COX 1 pathways, the lining of the stomach decreases in thickness, allowing the acidic digestive juice to irritate it, thus causing severe stomach pains. The same can be said for COX 2 enzymes, which are needed in areas such as the brain and kidney. If large doses of aspirin are taken, then the normal processes that occur in these organs may be disrupted. It is for this reason that other drugs have been created to have a similar effect as aspirin but without the side effects. One prime example is paracetamol, which will be explained in detail later.
There are many campaigns to boost the appropriate uptake of low dosage aspirin. However, it is important to note whether the decision has been made on whether benefit exceeds risk. The diagram above shows the molecular structure of aspirin Paracetamol relieves pain and fever in adults and children, and it is the most widely accepted medicine for this purpose. It is used mainly for it’s pain relieving qualities, either as a medicine prescribed by a doctor or it can be purchased as an over-the-counter medicine both in retail pharmacies or grocery stores.
There are virtually no groups of people who should not take paracetamol, and interactions with other treatments are not a problem. When taken at the recommended dosage, there are virtually no side-effects. Its pain relief and fever relief effects are similar to those of aspirin and it works in a similar, though not identical, way. Unlike aspirin, however, increasing the dose does not result in clinically useful anti-inflammatory activity. Paracetamol is therefore not of value for reducing inflammation in the treatment of chronic rheumatic diseases as are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. Nevertheless, paracetamol does provide useful pain relief and is considered the first line treatment in osteoarthritis.
Paracetamol can be combined with decongestant ingredients to help relieve the symptoms of the common cold, influenza and sinusitis by relieving headache, general aches, nasal congestion and fever. Paracetamol and its combinations are mainly available as tablets for immediate consumption or for dissolving in water before consumption. It is suitable for all age groups including the very young for whom it may be used following immunisation procedures, and it is available in liquid formulations for young children.