In the event of a heart attack or major heart event, calling 911 should always be your first step of action. This includes experiencing symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, arm and jaw pain, nausea and fatigue.
“Don’t wait!” warns Julia Harsh, RN, specializing in early heart attack care at ProMedica Toledo Hospital. “Early treatment can lesson damage to your heart and greatly improve your chances of survival.”
Harsh compares calling 911 to bringing the hospital straight to your living room. “When paramedics arrive they can monitor your vital signs, heart rhythm, transmit an EKG to the hospital, provide you with oxygen and medication, and treat any complications that may arise on the way to the hospital,” she says.
The 911 dispatcher may instruct you to chew an aspirin before the paramedics arrive. But can chewing an aspirin really prevent a heart attack?
Harsh answers our questions about this powerful pill when it comes to early heart attack care.
Why is aspirin the go-to drug to take when you experience symptoms of a heart attack?
Chewing aspirin as soon as the symptoms of a heart attack begin can inhibit platelet activity. Platelets are cells that are responsible for blood clots and can block arteries during a heart attack.
Aspirin helps to slow down and reduce the formation of blood clots by reducing platelets from grouping together. Whether or not you have had a heart attack, you may be recommended by your physician to start taking an aspirin each day to prevent a first or second heart attack from occurring.
Why doesn’t Tylenol or Ibuprofen work?
Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Ibuprofen are great pain relievers depending on the type of pain you are experiencing, but when it comes to a heart attack, these just won’t do.
Aspirin has been used to prevent heart attacks for more than 40 years. Only aspirin has anticlotting factors that thin platelets and reduce chances of having blood clots and possibly preventing a heart attack. This means that having fewer platelets decreases your chance of heart attack– another reason that many physicians recommend taking an aspirin every day.
Chewing an aspirin versus taking it whole – does it really make a difference to chew it?
It does! Chewing or crushing a full-strength adult aspirin (325 milligram) gets it into your bloodstream more quickly – within 4-5 minutes and the maximum effect in 14 minutes.
Swallowing a whole aspirin takes 10-12 minutes to get into your bloodstream and 26 minutes to reach its maximum effect. Even though this difference in time may seem small, minutes count when you’re having a heart attack.
Remember, when you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, always call 911 first. Then chew an aspirin.