Your chest aches. You think you’re having a heart attack. What do you do?
Consider taking an aspirin.
The American Heart Association recommends it, and according to a report published today in the association’s journal Circulation, as many as 10,000 American lives a year could be saved if everyone followed that advice.
The heart association first recommended in 1993 that people take one, full 325-milligram aspirin at the onset of chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack.
A follow-up report shows that not enough people are taking that seemingly simple life-saving step.
“Despite our recommendation, aspirin use remains underutilized and people are dying prematurely each year in this country,” said one of the authors of the report, Charles Hennekens, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School. “Those are avoidable deaths.”
A heart attack or stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a vessel. Doctors believe that during the early stages of a heart attack, aspirin - which is known to prevent blood platelets from sticking together - can prevent a clot from getting bigger.
Another author of the report, Valentin Fuster, president-elect of the AHA, said research in the past four years shows that only 20 percent to 40 percent of heart attack victims have popped an aspirin at the onset of trouble.
Dr. Azam Anwar, a cardiologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, said that an immediate aspirin is “absolutely fine, sound advice,” with one catch: “They should take the aspirin after they call 911.”