You’ve probably got aspirin in your medicine cabinet at home, but besides taking the sting out of a headache, did you know it can be beneficial for the heart as well? If your doctor recommends aspirin therapy, you may be curious how the little white pain relievers can positively impact your cardiovascular system. Health experts tell us it’s all about prevention.
How does aspirin help protect against heart attacks? Aspirin is an anti-platelet agent, or a medication that blocks the formation of blood clots by preventing platelets from sticking together. Low-dose aspirin reduces the risk of heart attacks in people who have never had a heart attack as well as in patients with existing coronary artery disease. Your doctor may recommend aspirin therapy if:
-You’ve had bypass surgery
-You have angina
-You have recently suffered a stroke or heart attack
-You have risk factors for heart disease and are over age 45 for men or 55 for women
Recent studies have shown that aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 70% in patients with unstable angina. Angina is chest pain that may be caused by the discomfort in the chest that happens when blood and oxygen are cut off temporarily. It is often caused by arteriosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries.
Aspirin also works to save heart muscle if taken during a heart attack. Doctors recommend chewing one 325mg aspirin if you believe you’re having a heart attack after calling 911. If a blood clot is causing a heart attack, chewing aspirin during the attack before rescue arrives may help reduce the damage.
There are risks associated with aspirin therapy, such as stomach irritation and bleeding. Also, make sure your doctor knows that you are on aspirin therapy if you are scheduled to have surgery, since aspirin thins the blood.
St. Petersburg General Hospital is a Certified Chest Pain Center. It’s our goal to educate the public about the importance of treating chest pain as a serious event. You should never take chest pain lightly or wait to see if it gets better. Call 911 if you are experiencing pain in the chest, sweating, nausea, arm or shoulder pain or any other symptoms of a possible heart attack. For non-emergency appointments, please contact Consult-A-Nurse® by calling 727-341-4055 to speak to a registered nurse or visit us online.