If you are wondering how a simple aspirin pill can help prevent something as major as a heart attack, then read the following article for the answers. In this HealthHearty write-up, we tell you not only how aspirin works and actually helps prevent a heart attack, but also how it can prevent a second heart attack as well.
When a blood clot blocks blood flow to the heart, it causes a heart attack.
When a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain, it causes a stroke.
Aspirin is a standard, and one of the most common, prescription medicine. Its scientific name is acetylsalicylic acid, and it is a non-narcotic analgesic medication. Aspirin comes in two forms – prescription and non-prescription. Prescription aspirin is given to relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (caused by the swelling of the lining of the joints), systemic lupus erythematosus (caused due to an attack by the immune system on the joints and organs, resulting in swelling and pain), osteoarthritis (caused by the breakdown of the lining of the joints), and other similar rheumatologic conditions.
Non-prescription aspirin is useful to treat fever and mild pain caused by menstrual periods, toothaches, headaches, colds, etc. Apart from treating these minor health issues, non-prescription aspirin is also useful in preventing a heart attack, increasing the survival rate during the attack, and reducing the risk of a second heart attack. Also, aspirin is helpful in preventing ischemic strokes that occur because of a clot blocking the blood flow to the brain, or mini strokes in which the blood flow to the brain is blocked for a short period.
Normally, a heart attack occurs when the blood supply to a part of the heart muscle is blocked. Initially, deposits of cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium, cellular waste products, etc., start building up in the inner lining of an artery. The buildup is called plaque, and it usually affects medium and large arteries.
The arteries get clogged when the plaque builds up on the artery wall due to excessive fat and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the bloodstream. Being crusty on the outer side and soft from inside, the plaque tends to crack, and when it cracks, the inside part attracts the platelets in the blood, which are components that make the blood clot. However, the clot formation, at times, happens in excess that causes a severe narrowing of the arteries, leading ultimately to a heart attack. Aspirin prevents clumping of the platelets, i.e., it interferes with the clot formation process of the blood and keeps the blood from excessive clotting, which reduces the possibility of a heart attack.
Taking an aspirin pill as soon as the symptoms of an attack start, improves the chances of survival. Emergency medical services give aspirin to the patient either in the ambulance while on the way to the hospital, or as soon as the patient arrives in the emergency room.
However, never take an aspirin on your own while experiencing a heart attack. Call the helpline number and follow their instructions. If the medical assistant on the other end guides you to take an aspirin, only then take it according to the recommended dosage. The reason being, the person dealing with you will inquire about your recent medical history and make sure that you don’t have an allergy or intolerance towards aspirin or any other health issues. It’s completely the medical attendant’s call whether to recommend an aspirin or not. If the person doesn’t say anything about taking aspirin, don’t take it. As mentioned earlier, there is a possibility that medical technicians may give you an aspirin dose when you are admitted to the emergency room.
The use of aspirin during the first stroke or heart attack makes it harder for the blood to clot, and thus, helps prevent a second occurrence. The dosage prescribed for the prevention of second heart attack may be larger than that prescribed for the prevention of first one, and hence, the doctor will decide the right dosage for you, which you need to follow stringently.
The use of aspirin for the prevention of a second stroke may stay effective until it is combined with other medication. For instance, taking ibuprofen along with aspirin, for arthritis, may reduce aspirin’s effect gradually. According to a medical study, a person was taking these two medicines in combination. However, when he discontinued the use of ibuprofen, aspirin became effective. Hence, the Food and Drug Administration warns about using aspirin with other medications as they hamper its effectiveness.
Aspirin, if taken incorrectly or without the doctor’s consultation, may prove harmful and at times even fatal. Also, since it is a blood thinner, it may cause certain health complications. Hence, consider the following pointers before starting an aspirin dose for your heart health.
Although aspirin has proved to be effective to increase the chances of survival during a heart attack, it should never be taken without a doctor’s permission because all attacks are not caused by blood clots. While most of them occur due to blood clotting, some are caused by ruptured blood vessels. Taking an aspirin dose during such an attack may aggravate the condition and make it more complicated for doctors to treat.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and does not, in any way, intend to replace the advice of a medical professional.