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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 do. Take aspirin only if advised by a healthcare professional.

How Does a Heart Attack Occur?

A Simple, One Line Answer!

Put simply, a heart attack occurs when the oxygen-rich blood from arteries or vessels is blocked to flow through the heart muscle.

Top Two Culprits

(1) Plaque buildup. Most heart attacks happen due to a pre-existing coronary heart disease. And this doesn't develop in a day! It actually develops overtime with the narrowing of blood vessels of the heart.

This narrowing process is usually caused by a buildup of plaque ― cholesterol, fat, white blood cells and other substances that accumulate on the inner walls of arteries.

(2) Platelet buildup. 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.

What Really Happens?

During a heart attack, a plaque rupture can occur in your artery. This rupturing often happens when the fibrous cap covering the plaque breaks open. Assuming a sudden injury, the body then alerts the brain to bring platelets for clumping action. The platelets consequently trigger a blood clot to form.

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. Without oxygen, the heart muscle in that section dies.

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. It is 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.

flowchart of how aspirin prevents heart attack

Can I Take an Aspirin During a Heart Attack?

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 half an hour of a heart attack, you will actually make the clumping of platelets and the formation of blood 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.

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. The drug may actually make the bleeding from ruptured vessels more severe.

Can I Take an Aspirin a Day?

No, daily aspirin therapy isn't for everyone.

A daily low-dose aspirin (usually between 75 mg and 100 mg) may be recommended for those who have had or are at risk of having a heart attack or stroke. However, 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 those who already have a heart 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 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.

In 2019, a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that daily aspirin use was linked to a higher risk of major bleeding and a lower risk of cardiovascular events.

Who Shouldn't Take 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

Final Takeaways

  • A heart attack occurs when a portion of the heart muscle dies from a lack of blood supply.
  • Plaque and platelet buildups are two of the common culprits behind a heart attack.
  • Aspirin can help prevent a heart attack by preventing platelets from clumping together and forming blood clots. But aspirin alone can't save your life In the event of a heart attack. Dial 911 and seek emergency medical help.
  • Take aspirin during a heart attack only if your doctor says so.

In conclusion, the daily aspirin therapy is not right for everyone. Aspirin can cause serious health problems like hearing loss, stomach ulcers, and internal bleeding. Certain medical conditions, such as asthma and bleeding disorders like haemophilia, also make aspirin therapy inappropriate. So, consult your doctor to see if aspirin is right for you.


⚠️ Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.