Good old Aspirin for Cardiac Emergency
Heart attacks are common above 40, often coming at odd times, without warning, and are the commonest killer of our modern times. The best chances of reducing the severity of an acute attack and improving the chances of survival are by chewing aspirin at the very start and reaching a hospital within 2 hours.
A doctor colleague of mine, Dr Anil Behl, has started a unique form of social service, of putting 4 aspirin tablets in a plastic pouch and keeping it available at all times with the security check-post of his housing colony. He has backed up this simple act by informing all residents of his colony by email and posters, that should anyone have early symptom of heart attack, they should immediately procure the pills from the security room and chew them while waiting for further help to arrive.
During a heart attack, blood clot forms in the arteries of the heart blocking the flow of oxygen-rich blood to heart muscles. Clot formation begins with clumping of small blood particles called platelets. What aspirin does is that it prevents stickiness and clumping of platelets,. When taken during a heart attack it therefore slows clotting and decreases the size of the clot.
Most cardiologists swear by aspirin for several reasons.
For those who have had a previous heart attack, long-term use of aspirin reduces the chances of having a second one.
It is useful for those who have never had a heart disease before but are at increased risk of having one. This group includes people above 40 who have diabetes, high blood pressure, increased blood levels of cholesterol and smokers. Those with a strong family history of heart disease also come in the “risky” category.
A daily dose of low-dose aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of a first heart attack in this group. Cardiologists also recommend aspirin to all those who have had a cardiac artery bypass surgery or angioplasty. The reasons are much the same. It prevents platelets to clump thus reducing the chances of clot formation in the arteries of the heart.
Heart attack presents as heaviness or pain in the center of the chest, often radiating to the neck or left arm or back, sometimes associated with sweating and uneasiness. It is often felt as “gas” and vomiting by some.
Aspirin is of course the first step that can be taken at home or on the way to a hospital. An angiography, and opening up of the blocked arteries by angioplasty, performed within the first 6 hours, reduces damage and death of heart muscles, and the best chances of long-term survival.
It makes sense to keep aspirin handy at all times, not just for you, but others around you who might need it in an emergency.