Is an Aspirin a Day Beneficial for Heart Attacks?

Aspirin for stroke

A heart attack does not start and end within minutes. It is rather an ongoing event in which a segment of your heart muscle starts to die because of the loss of blood supply. The damage to your heart and body may be minimized by taking proper steps as soon as the warning signs appear.

An aspirin a day can help prevent heart attack and stroke. But during a heart attack, don't start aspirin on your own. Calling 911 for help is the first thing you should immediately do. If the 911 operator recommends taking an aspirin, then you can take it.

How Does a Heart Attack Occur?

A heart attack generally occurs when the oxygen-rich blood from arteries or vessels is blocked to flow through the heart muscle. Most heart attacks happen due to a pre-existing coronary heart disease.

A heart disease doesn't develop in a day. It actually develops overtime with the narrowing of blood vessels of the heart. This process of narrowing is caused by a buildup of plaque ― cholesterol, fat, white blood cells and other substances that accumulate on the inner walls of arteries.

Formation of a blood clot in the artery is the single most important culprit behind a heart attack. When you cut yourself, the platelets clump together to make a blood clot and seal the wound. This clumping mechanism is beneficial as it helps stop the bleeding. But, if platelets build up on a small blood vessel, such as coronary artery, that is already narrowed by a heart disease, they can form a blood clot. Clots cause blocking of normal blood flow in vessels that supply oxygen to the heart.

During a heart attack, a plaque rupture in the blood vessel happens. When this rupture occurs, the body sends signals to the brain, assuming a sudden injury, and brings platelets for clumping action. As a result, the platelets then trigger a blood clot.

This is when a heart attack begins. As time ticks away, the clot starts getting bigger and bigger until the blood flow through the artery is cut off completely. Oxygen-rich blood no longer travels to the section of heart muscle which the artery is serving. Once the supply of oxygen is completely blocked, death of the section occurs.

How Does Aspirin Prevent a Heart Attack?

Aspirin dampens the clot-forming process by making blood platelets less sticky. This, in turn, lowers the odds of an artery blockage and prevents the risk of a fatal heart attack.

Aspirin also prevents the plaque forming process by blocking the function of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which helps make a chemical called prostaglandin (a hormone-like substance that facilitates the inflammatory response). Prostaglandins don't just trigger the inflammatory reaction, they (not all, but some) can also cause the blood platelets to clump together and form clots. When aspirin blocks cyclooxygenase, this action, in turn, inhibits the production of prostaglandins. Thus, aspirin prevents the formation of blood clots, as well.

Should I Take an Aspirin During a Heart Attack?

According to American Heart Association, aspirin isn't usually instructed during a stroke, because all heart attacks are not caused by blood clots. Ruptured blood vessels can also cause some strokes. The organization recommends that you shouldn't do anything before calling 911, as aspirin could actually make the bleeding from ruptured vessels more severe.
Yes, you may take an aspirin during a heart attack, but only if you're allowed by a healthcare provider. By taking an aspirin, you may minimize the chances of severe damage resulting from a heart attack.

If you take an aspirin within within half an hour of a heart attack, you will actually make the clumping of platelets and the formation of blood a clot to slow down. This will help keep the flow of blood through the vessels, supplying the necessary oxygen to the heart.

During a heart attack, chew one standard 325-milligram aspirin slowly, rather than swallowing the tablet. However, do not chew or break tablets or capsules that are extended-release -- swallow them whole.

Can I Take an Aspirin a Day?

In 2012, a large-scale population-based cohort study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that daily intake of 300 milligrams or less of aspirin increased the incidence rate of major stomach or brain bleeding by 55 percent, greater than earlier research suggested.
No, daily aspirin therapy isn't for everyone. Review of data from clinical trials does not support a daily low dose of aspirin as a preventive medicine for strokes.

Don't start taking an aspirin a day on your own. Ask your healthcare provider prior to starting a daily aspirin therapy.

If aspirin is taken once a day without a doctor's consent, it may lead to serious health problems. It can increase the risk of stomach ulcers, abdominal bleeding and hearing loss. The once daily low dose of aspirin isn't recommended for people who have already developed heart a disease or had a stroke. The regimen is also not recommended for those who have diabetes, especially men over 50 and women over 60.

The use of once daily baby aspirin is helpful for the the primary prevention of a coronary heart disease. It may provide a net benefit to you, unless you have a history of bleeding or aspirin allergy. Thus, you should talk with your healthcare provider first to make sure whether it is safe and appropriate for you.

Who Shouldn't Take A Daily Aspirin Therapy

People with certain medical conditions should not take the once daily baby dose of aspirin. These conditions include:
  • Asthma
  • Liver or kidney conditions
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Stomach or intestinal ulcers
  • Nasal polyps
  • Bleeding disorder

What Are the Risks of Taking Aspirin?

As with all medication, there are known risks and adverse effects of aspirin as well. While aspirin benefits the heart inhibiting the clumping of platelets, it prevents the development of substances that keep the stomach's delicate lining.

Although studies have demonstrated that aspirin is safe to use as directed, they can certainly cause some serious side effects.

Some of the common side effects of taking a daily aspirin therapy may include:
  • Severe headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Allergic reaction
  • Vision trouble
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach upset
  • Gastric ulcers
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Blood in the urine or stool

Image source: Staffan Enbom, CC-BY_2.0, via Flickr