Aspirin a Day Keeps Heart Attacks at Bay
The little tablet that soothes the minor aches and pains of daily life is also a life-saver. The amazing powers of aspirin to protect against heart disease have been demonstrated in a whopping 145 clinical trials involving a total of 100,000 persons. Aspirin has been shown to help prevent heart attacks, both in people who have had a previous heart attack and also in persons at high risk for a first attack. Aspirin also protects the heart while a heart attack is actually in progress, by reducing the clot in the coronary artery.
Aspirin alone has been shown to reduce mortality during the first month after a heart attack by 23%; combined with clot-busting drugs, it cuts mortality by 42%. Some specialists advise that if you think you’re having a heart attack, first dial 911, then take an aspirin while waiting for emergency help.
To prevent a second heart attack, doctors recommend taking one regular-strength or one baby aspirin a day. This “secondary prevention” has been shown to cut the risk of a second heart attack and death by up to 30%. Some organizations have extended their recommendations for aspirin use to the “primary prevention” population to prevent a first heart attack. The American College of Chest Physicians, for one, advises daily aspirin for persons over 50 who have at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes.
Persons who experience stomach upset from aspirin can take anti-ulcer medications, such as H2-blockers (like cimetidine) or antacids, or use coated or buffered aspirin. As with any medication, you should talk to your physician before taking it on a regular basis.
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