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Should You Take Aspirin When Having a Heart Attack?

There is consensus in the medical community that chewing a 325 mg tablet of regular aspirin can help reduce the severity of a heart attack. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is usually initiated when a cholesterol-laden deposit that has formed inside the lining of a coronary artery bursts. The coronary arteries, so-named because they cover the heart much like a crown, deliver oxygenated blood to the heart muscle. Should one of these arteries get blocked, the heart tissue it feeds experiences oxygen starvation and if this continues, the cells die. Blockages occur when a deposit bursts and the body tries to repair the rupture by forming a blood clot at the site. This is accomplished by rushing blood cells called platelets to the affected area. Platelets initiate the clotting process but if the clot grows to be too large it can block the flow of blood in the artery and we have a heart attack.  Aspirin inhibits platelet activity but in order to do this it must get into the bloodstream quickly before a clot does its damage.  Studies have shown that chewing a tablet is the most efficient way of getting sufficient aspirin into the bloodstream as rapidly as possible. In fact it works about twice as fast as a swallowed tablet. Of course if a heart attack is suspected it is critical to get to the hospital as soon as possible, but chewing an aspirin tablet is a good idea. It may even be life-saving. 

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