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Aspirin for Heart Attack - How It Works?

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The use of Aspirin can help prevent severe medical conditions like heart attacks and strokes in most individuals. Read the article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq

Published At December 15, 2022
Reviewed AtAugust 21, 2023

What is Aspirin?

Aspirin is also known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA); it belongs to the group of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs are a group of medications used for various conditions ranging from mild diseases such as flu to severe conditions such as preventing cardiovascular diseases. This group of drugs has the following effects:

  • Analgesic Effects - Helps to alleviate pain.

  • Antipyretic Effects - Helps to reduce high temperature and fever.

  • Anti-inflammatory Effects - Helps to fight inflammation.

How Does Aspirin Work?

It works by slowing the formation of prostaglandins which play a crucial role in the body’s inflammatory response. When the prostaglandins produced decrease at the site of cell or tissue injury, the inflammation also reduces. It also helps block an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX), which further helps in the formation of prostaglandins. When Aspirin inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase, it also interferes with the formation and function of platelets. This interference with the functioning of platelets gives rise to the anti-clotting properties of Aspirin which has been used extensively to prevent heart disease, especially heart attack.

What Is a Heart Attack?

Heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction (MI), is a severe medical condition that usually occurs when an artery or blood vessel supplying the heart has plaque (fatty and waxy substance) built up within its walls and that plaque suddenly breaks. When the plaque suddenly breaks or dislodges from the blood vessel wall, it causes injury to the walls of the blood vessels and leads to bleeding within the blood vessels. In order to stop this bleeding, platelets act together and form a blood clot. It is this blood clot that prevents the blood from flowing through and reaching the heart muscles. This reduced or diminished blood flow further starves the heart tissue of nutrients and oxygen, causing cardiac ischemia. Eventually, the heart tissue dies, leading to a heart attack.

What Factors Can Make an Individual Susceptible to Heart Attack?

Several risk factors make an individual susceptible to heart attack or myocardial infarctions (MI), such as:

  • Age: Our blood vessels harden as we age, making them less flexible. When blood vessels are less flexible, it becomes difficult for the blood to travel through them.

  • Smoking: Smoking tobacco produces numerous toxic chemicals and carcinogens. When inhaled into the lung, it can cause inflammation and damage the inner lining of arteries (blood vessels), making it difficult for the blood to pass through.

  • Obesity: A high-calorie, high-sugar, and low-fiber diet can lead to obesity. Obesity increases the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes (high blood sugar), and hyperlipidemia (increased levels of lipids or fats in the blood), which in turn increase the risk of having a heart attack.

How Does Aspirin Help Prevent Heart Attack?

In addition to the analgesic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects, Aspirin also has anti-platelet effects. This allows it to interfere with the clotting action of platelets and prevents the formation of a blood clot within the blood vessels when the plaque breaks and dislodges into the bloodstream. Blood clots are the primary cause of strokes and heart attacks. It is much more efficient in preventing heart attacks in individuals diagnosed with the following:

  • Hypertension (increased blood pressure).

  • Hyperlipidemia (increased levels of fat or lipids in the blood).

  • Hypercholesterolemia (increased levels of cholesterol in the blood).

  • Diabetes (increased blood sugar).

What Are the Uses of Aspirin?

The use of Aspirin varies with its dosage. Low doses of Aspirin can be used for its antithrombotic effects, whereas higher doses of Aspirin can be used for its antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects.

Can an Individual Take Aspirin Every Day to Prevent Heart Attack?

Aspirin should not be consumed daily by everyone to prevent heart attacks. A physician may advise the use of Aspirin on a daily basis for secondary prevention in individuals. This means that if an individual has a history of a heart or vascular disease or has any risk factors that make them susceptible to heart attacks, the physician will prescribe low doses of Aspirin for daily use.

Who Should Avoid Using Aspirin?

One should avoid using Aspirin if any of the following conditions are applicable:

  • Have a history of allergic reactions to Aspirin.

  • Have a history of stomach ulcers.

  • Have bleeding disorders like hemophilia, thrombocytopenic purpura, and Von Willebrand’s disease.

  • Have liver and kidney disorders.

  • Pregnant and nursing women.

  • Have uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).

  • Children.

  • Individuals on anticoagulants (for example, Warfarin).

How Is the Dosage of Aspirin Calculated?

One should never take Aspirin without consulting a physician. The physician decides the dosage, and it varies depending on the risk factors and underlying conditions.

What Are the Side Effects Associated With Aspirin?

As with all medications, Aspirin may cause side effects. However, not everyone experiences them. Some common side effects include:

  • Dyspepsia (difficulty in digestion or digesting).

  • Upper abdominal pain.

  • Heartburn.

  • Mild headache.

  • Drowsiness.

Aspirin is also known to cause some serious side effects. They include the following:

  • Peptic ulcers.

  • Gastrointestinal ulceration.

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding.

  • Hemoptysis (blood in cough).

  • Severe nausea and vomiting.

  • Hallucinations.

  • Confusion.

  • Seizures (convulsions).

  • Tinnitus (ringing of the ear).

  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat).

  • Melena (black or tarry stools).

  • Hives.

  • Severe allergic reaction (seen as swelling of the eyes, face, lips, tongue, and throat).

  • Wheezing.

  • Dyspnea (difficulty in breathing).

What Are the Risk Factors Associated With the Use of Aspirin?

Aspirin has been associated with Reye's syndrome. It is a rare medical condition that causes severe damage to the liver and kidneys of children.


Aspirin, for years, has been used for various medical conditions. Its antiplatelet and antithrombotic properties make it ideal for preventing heart attacks, transient ischemic attacks (TIA), and stroke. It makes the blood thinner, which helps the blood have a smooth passage within the thickened blood vessels. Although it has numerous benefits, it also has many side effects, some of which should be dealt with immediately. Individuals should not use Aspirin daily for primary prevention as its risks outweigh the benefits. Instead, having a healthy lifestyle incorporating physical activity with routine body-check ups is more beneficial for primary prevention. On the contrary, Aspirin therapy has remarkably helped individuals with secondary prevention of heart attacks.

Frequently Asked Questions


Can a Person Take Aspirin During a Heart Attack?

Aspirin is a drug that is widely known as a blood thinner. Taking Aspirin during a heart attack is safe and recommended as it has good results. However, taking Aspirin alone will not help if a person has a heart attack.


Can Aspirin Be Taken for Chest Pain?

Aspirin is a widely known blood thinning agent. It is advised when a person has a heart attack because of the narrowing of the arteries and reduction in blood flow. It should not be taken when chest pain is caused by an injury.


Does Aspirin Work in Heart Attack Immediately?

Aspirin is a blood thinning agent and can turn helpful during a heart attack as it is caused due to insufficient blood reaching the heart due to the constriction of arteries. Aspirin can help the blood form a clot, but it should be taken after consulting a doctor as it is not suitable for everyone.


Why Is Aspirin No Longer Recommended?

Aspirin has side effects like other medicines; it irritates the lining of the stomach and creates gastrointestinal issues. It is a blood-thinning agent; therefore, it can turn harmful for people who are prone to higher bleeding.


For Whom Aspirin Is Not Recommended?

Aspirin is not advised in conditions such as pregnant women. Some other conditions are uncontrolled high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, asthma, peptic ulcers, and liver and kidney diseases.


Does Aspirin Work as a Blood Thinner?

Aspirin is a drug widely used as a blood-thinning agent. It works by preventing the blood from forming a clot. It can be used to prevent cardiovascular disease, heart attack, etc.


What Is First Aid for a Heart Attack?

The first aid to be done when a person has a heart attack is to calm them, loosen their clothing if it is tight, ask them if they take any medication for chest pain, and provide them. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) or artificial ventilation should be given.


What Medicine Is Given as a First Aid for a Heart Attack?

The first aid medicine given for a heart attack is Aspirin. It is a blood-thinning agent. If a person takes medicine already for chest pain like Nitroglycerine, that should be given. Aspirin is not recommended in people who have bleeding disorders, pregnant women, liver and kidney disease patients, etc.


Does Aspirin Show Any Effect on ECG?

Aspirin is a blood thinning agent, and it reduces platelet aggregability in patients with angina pectoris, but exercise tolerance is not improved. It can alter the ECG (electrocardiogram) abnormalities.


Why Does Aspirin Stop Chest Pain?

Aspirin acts on the platelets by quitting their clotting action. As blood clots can block the arteries that supply blood to the heart, the anti-clotting mechanism of Aspirin means the blood can flow more conveniently until further medical assistance is provided to prevent the blockage.


Can Aspirin Control Cholesterol?

It is seen that Aspirin therapy can have a good impact on lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke, especially in people with multiple risk factors, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It should always be taken on the advice of the doctor.


How Is a Heart Attack Avoided?

Some of the measures that can be taken to avoid heart attack are:
- Take a healthy, balanced diet.
- Be more physically active.
- Keep to a healthy weight.
- Quit smoking.
- Reduce alcohol consumption.
- Keep the blood pressure under control.
- Keep the diabetes under control.


Is Aspirin Good for High BP?

Aspirin cannot lower blood pressure on its own. However, it has the ability to thin the blood and might be useful in some people with high blood pressure (hypertension). High blood pressure carries a risk for heart disease.


Which Is the Best Time to Take Aspirin?

Low-dose Aspirin is to be taken once a day. It is advised not to take it on an empty stomach. The best time to have it is with or just after the meal. This makes it less prone to disturb the stomach or have other stomach issues.


Can Aspirin Raise Blood Pressure?

Aspirin is a blood-thinning agent. It is taken during a heart attack to prevent blood from clotting. It is not seen to raise blood pressure or lower it down; it works by avoiding blood clotting and providing sufficient blood to the heart.


Is It Possible to Self-Treat a Heart Attack?

Specialized treatment is required at the earliest in order to save the heart muscles from permanent damage. If a person is alone when he has a heart attack, he must stop whatever he is doing and should go to a safe place to rest and seek medical assistance immediately.
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Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq
Dr. Muhammad Zohaib Siddiq



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