Dear Dr. Solomon: My husband recently had his annual physical examination, and one of the things his doctor told him was to take an aspirin every day. Apparently, this can keep him from getting a heart attack. Since there has been heart disease in my family, I was very interested in this, and I'd like to know whether taking aspirin would also be good for women. -- Mrs. N.D., Dover, Del.
Dear Mrs. D.: First let me caution you about taking any medication over an extended period of time without first consulting a physician. Taking an occasional aspirin for a headache is one thing. Taking an aspirin a day for the rest of your life is something else.
Having said that, I should add that aspirin does appear to be beneficial to women in avoiding a first heart attack. This was one of the findings in a study conducted at Harvard Medical School in Boston. What makes this study particularly significant is the large number of women who were involved in it -- more than 87,000.
If you are concerned about your family history of heart disease and are interested in learning whether regular aspirin use may be of value to you, I suggest you arrange to discuss this with your physician.
Dear Dr. Solomon: I've heard of all the wonderful things that can happen when you add beans to your diet, but I don't have either the time or skill to start from scratch and whip up a meal of beans. What about the use of canned beans? I know how to heat a can of beans even though I can't do much else. -- Doug, Baltimore, Md.
Dear Doug: The addition of canned beans to the diet has been reported to lower cholesterol levels. However, I would caution that not all canned beans are created equal. Some brands contain more fat or sugar than others, and some contain meat. Check the labels for the number of calories per serving, but make certain that you're comparing the same serving size. Otherwise, any conclusion about the number of calories per serving will be misleading.
Dear Dr. Solomon: What is your opinion of drinking bottled water instead of tap water? I'm not very anxious to pay for something that I can get for free, but using bottled water could be an inexpensive investment if it means better health. -- John, Bethesda, Md.
Dear John: You are assuming that bottled water is purer than tap water, but this is not necessarily the case. Some people prefer bottled water because of the taste, but there is no evidence that using bottled water will improve your health. Paying more for a product does not necessarily mean getting a better product.
For Mrs. V.Z., Silver Spring, Md.: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 3 or 4 years of age should not participate in swimming programs.
Dr. Neil Solomon will answer questions from area readers in his Tuesday column in Accent.
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