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Aspirin and heart attacks

Aspirin, acetyl derivative of salicylic acid that is used to lower fever, relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and thin the blood. Common conditions treated with aspirin include headache, muscle and joint pain, and the inflammation caused by rheumatic fever and arthritis. Aspirin is believed to act against fever, pain, and inflammation by interfering with the synthesis of specific prostaglandins in the body. Because of its ability to inhibit the formation of blood clots, aspirin is also used in low doses to prevent heart attack and stroke and to control unstable angina. The drug's usefulness in preventing certain

cancers, the dangerous high blood pressure that sometimes occurs during pregnancy (toxemia), and migraine headaches is also under investigation. Aspirin is the only over-the-counter medication that has been proven to help prevent cardiovascular disease in persons who have suffered a first heart attack or a transient ischemic attack or who have unstable angina.

Normal dosage may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal bleeding. Large doses cause acid-base imbalance and respiratory disturbances and can be fatal, especially in children. Aspirin also has been linked to the development of Reye's syndrome (a combination of acute encephalopathy and fatty infiltration of internal organs) in children who have taken it for viral infections. Acetaminophen (Tylenol), which does not cause gastric irritation but does lower fever and relieve pain, is often substituted for aspirin.

Aspirin, although usually made synthetically now, was originally derived from salicin, the active ingredient in willow bark. Willow bark had been used for centuries in folk medicine in certain parts of the world. Acetylsalicylic acid was first prepared by the German chemist Felix Hoffmann, an employee of Friedrich Bayer & Co., in 1897. It is now the active ingredient in more than 50 over-the-counter preparations; estimates put American consumption at 80 billion tablets annually.

Aspirin is taken daily following a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack. (Preventing further heart attacks is called secondary prevention, while preventing the first heart attack is called primary prevention). The ideal daily dose of aspirin for secondary prevention has not been established. Some doctors recommend 160 mg; others recommend 81 mg. The reason for this difference has to do with aspirin's occasional long-term side effect of bleeding (for example from stomach ulcers). Even though the risk of major bleeding with long-term, moderate dose aspirin (325 mg/day) is low (less than 1%), this risk can be lowered slightly by using an even lower dose (160 or 81 mg/day).

Aspirin also benefits patients with forms of coronary heart disease other than an acute heart attack. Aspirin has been shown to reduce heart attacks and improve survival in the patients suffered from heart disease. Aspirin improves survival among patients with unstable angina. Patients with unstable angina experience chest pains at rest or with minimal exertion. These patients have critically narrowed coronary arteries and are at imminent risk of having a heart attacks. Aspirin improves survival among patients with stable exertional angina. Aspirin prevents formation of blood clots at the site of the PTCA. Aspirin prevents the formation of blood clots that can occlude surgical bypass grafts. Aspirin in low doses (81 mg/day) has been shown to prevent first heart attacks (primary prevention)

Aspirin helps reduce the risk of heart attack by diminishing the clotting action of blood platelets. A heart attack is known in medical terms as a myocardial infarction. In a heart attack, the blood supply to the myocardium (the heart muscle) is either blocked or severely reduced. This blockage of the blood supply to the heart muscle can be caused by either a blood clot that becomes wedged in a coronary artery or by the build up of plaque within the arteries themselves. The length of time that the blood supply is blocked or severely reduced to the heart muscle may determine if the heart muscle is significantly weakened or even suffers cell death. Aspirin's anti-coagulant ability lessens the chances of clot formation and reduces the ability of platelets to block arteries narrowed by accumulated plaque.

More information on heart attack (myocardial infarction)

What's a heart attack (myocardial infarction)? - A heart attack (myocardial infarction) is the death of heart muscle from the sudden blockage of a coronary artery by a blood clot.
What're the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? - Symptoms of a heart attack include pain and pressure in the chest, which often spread to the shoulder, arm, and neck.
What're the women's heart attack symptoms? - A woman's heart attack has more varied symptoms than a man's. Women are more likely to have nausea and pain high in the abdomen.
What're the warning signs of a heart attack? - Warning signs of a heart attack include uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest, cold sweat or paleness.
What causes a heart attack? - Heart attack is caused by a lack of blood supply to the heart for an extended time period. The most common cause of heart attack is atherosclerosis.
What're the complications of a heart attack? - Complications of a heart attack include ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, cardiogenic shock, arrhythmias, heart failure.
What're the risk factors for heart attack? - Heart attack risk factors can be devided into two groups: Inherited (or genetic) risk factors and acquired risk factors.
How is a heart attack diagnosed? - The most important factor in diagnosing and treating a heart attack is prompt medical attention. For a complete diagnosis, the medical history is vital.
What're the treatments for heart attack? - The goal of treatment for heart attack is to quickly open the blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart muscle, a process called reperfusion.
What drugs are used to cure heart attack? - Medications used to treat heart attacks include blood vessel dilators, clot busters, beta blockers, antiarrhythmic drugs, pain relievers.
What surgeries treat heart attacks? - Surgeries to treat heart attacks include coronary angioplasty, coronary artery bypass surgery, transmyocardial revascularization, and atherectomy.
Aspirin and heart attacks - Aspirin is taken daily following a heart attack to reduce the risk of another heart attack. Aspirin reduces heart attacks and improve survival in the patients.
How to survive a heart attack? - In wilderness first aid, a possible heart attack justifies medical evacuation by the fastest available means. Heart attacks are survivable.
How to prevent a heart attack? - Heart attack can be prevented with a healthy liestyle. Daily aspirin therapy or other medical treatment help prevent heart disease and heart attack.
How to recover after a heart attack? - Following discharge from the hospital, patients continue their recovery at home. Lowering cholesterol can reduce the risk for another heart attack.
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Topics in heart disease and cardiovascular disorders

Coronary circulation disorders
Myocardium disorders
Heart valve disorders
Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms)
Heart inflammation and infection
Congenital heart disease
Valvular disease (blood vessels disorders)
Procedures done for coronary artery disease
Devices used in cardiology
Diagnostic tests and procedures for heart diseases
Heart transplant
 

Featured articles on heart disease and cardiovascular disorders

Coronary artery disease
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Stroke


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