Why aspirin remains a wonder drug for the heart
Aspirin is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
In 1950, this pain-relieving drug was the most frequently-sold painkiller, setting new records. While the substances inside the drug have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, aspirin, as it exists today, is a fairly recent development.
One of the drug’s most important benefits is its impact on heart health. And while aspirin has life-saving properties, there are certain risks to be aware of before you take it. Always consult with a doctor before starting any kind of medication regimen.
The history of aspirin
In 1897, acetylsalicylic acid was termed “aspirin” by the Bayer Company, and this was the first time the drug was marketed. However, researchers think that salicylic acid was used up to 4,000 years ago when the Sumerians discovered that the willow tree offered pain remedies. Salicylic acid is extracted from the bark of the willow tree, among other kinds of trees, and is in the salicylates group.
The Royal Society published a report on willow bark in 1763, discussing how it can cure fevers. And in 1853, Charles Frederic Gerhardt, a French scientist, synthesized acetylsalicylic acid for the first time.
But aspirin didn’t become mainstream as a cardiovascular remedy until about the 1940s when Dr. Lawrence L. Craven started prescribing aspirin for male patients to prevent clots in the arteries of the heart. A controlled trial in 1974 revealed that heart attack deaths were reduced up to 25% from the use of aspirin. Since then, numerous other studies have shown a reduction in cardiovascular events when patients take aspirin. Now, current health organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) embrace aspirin as an effective preventative measure and treatment for those at risk for cardiovascular issues.
Aspirin and heart health
Many medical professionals today will recommend a daily dose of aspirin after a patient experiences serious issues like a heart attack or stroke.
This is because aspirin can help prevent blood clotting. Our bodies have natural platelets that go into action when we get wounds. These platelets build up and essentially form a seal to stop any bleeding.
Atherosclerosis is the process in which fatty deposits of cholesterol buildup in arteries and can eventually lead to blood clots that block the arteries. This form of buildup is called plaque, which usually affects large or medium-sized arteries. This is how clots can block blood flow to the heart, which is the major cause of heart attacks.
Aspirin reduces the clumping of our platelets, which can prevent heart attacks from occurring.
However, because aspirin can increase bleeding in general, Harvard Men’s Health Watch reports that most doctors today recommend small daily doses, about 81 mg a day, which is known as “baby” aspirin. This is the standard recommendation for preventative purposes.
If someone is experiencing heart attack symptoms, an emergency dose of 325 mg is recommended, which is a full, adult dose. But the American Heart Association first says to call 9-1-1 before taking or administering anything, as many people tend to (improperly) wait for the drug to kick in to see if they can avoid going to the hospital.
This can be a life-threatening mistake, and you should always seek emergency medical help if you think you are having heart attack symptoms. These include chest tightness or discomfort, shortness of breath, or lightheadedness, among others. The AHA also recommends that people with a high risk of heart attack, or those who have survived a heart attack, should also take a low dose of aspirin daily.
Risks of taking aspirin
Even though aspirin can prevent life-threatening issues, the American Heart Association lists some risks of taking the drug. Complications can arise if you have an aspirin allergy, drink alcohol regularly, are at risk of hemorrhagic stroke or gastrointestinal bleeding, or are going to have any medical or dental procedures.
People are at risk in these situations because aspirin thins the blood, thus making it harder to clot when a blood condition exists or when undergoing serious surgical procedures.
If someone is experiencing a stroke, the AHA does not recommend that they take aspirin. This is because blood thinning may actually make bleeding strokes more severe – bleeding strokes are those that are not caused by blood clots (though other types are).
Before making any decisions about taking aspirin regularly, talk to your doctor. And to learn more about your training options for serious, life-threatening emergencies, get in touch with One Beat CPR today. We offer a variety of courses, including First Aid and CPR and AED training programs – all of which can save a life.