Heart group: Take aspirin at first signs of attack
October 20, 1997
Web posted at: 8:39 p.m. EDT (0039 GMT)
(CNN) -- Just one aspirin could save your life.
That is the message of the American Heart Association. In the
latest issue of the journal Circulation, the AHA says that
as many as 10,000 American lives could be saved every year if
everyone followed its recommendation to take a single
325-milligram aspirin tablet at the first signs of a severe
The heart association first made that recommendation in 1993.
Four years later, a follow-up report shows that only 20 to 40
percent of heart attack victims are taking the seemingly
simple step of taking one aspirin at the onset of symptoms.
"Despite our recommendation, aspirin use remains
underutilized and people are dying prematurely," said one of
the authors of the report, Dr. Charles Hennekens, who is
chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital
in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Doctors already routinely prescribe an aspirin a day for
those who have had a heart attack to help prevent another
But Hennekens emphasizes the importance of taking aspirin at
the onset of an attack.
"If you were having a heart attack, the single best treatment
you could take for that heart attack is aspirin," he said.
People who take aspirin within 24 hours of onset of the
symptoms of a heart attack reduce their risk of another heart
attack, Hennekens said. They also reduce risk of stroke and
have a 23 percent lower death rate, he said.
Heart attacks occur when a blood clot blocks a vessel.
Doctors believe aspirin, which prevents blood platelets from
sticking together, can keep a blood clot from growing.
However, an aspirin a day may not be the right prescription
for everyone. Experts say more study is needed before they
can recommend the regular use of aspirin to prevent heart
attack or stroke in healthy people because aspirin can have
But Azam Anwar, a cardiologist at Baylor University Medical
Center in Dallas, agrees that an immediate aspirin at the
onset of an attack is "absolutely fine, sound advice," with
one catch: "They should take the aspirin after they call
Medical Correspondent Al Hinman contributed to this report.