If you’re experiencing “chest pressure” or “chest pain”, aspirin is the BEST form of first aid. But all aspirins are not alike nor are all methods of taking aspirin alike. Take the lifesaving quiz below…

Why Aspirin

A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle. Most heart attacks develop when a cholesterol-laden plaque in a coronary artery ruptures. Plaque deposits are hard on the outside and when this outer shell ruptures (cracks), platelets rush to the area in an effort to ‘patch’ the ruptured area.

Platelets are disc-shaped particles in the blood that aid in clotting. A clot grows minute by minute! As a clot grows, it blocks an artery. When the artery is completely blocked, cardiac tissue dies from the lack of blood supply and you have a heart attack. But aspirin can help stop the platelets from forming a larger clot if you take the aspirin BEFORE the clot gets too big. Time is critical! Aspirin helps inhibit platelet activity.


QUIZ (3 questions):

1. Pick the METHOD that you think makes aspirin work the fastest*. That is, during a suspected heart attack, which of the following is the fastest way to reduce blood clot formation?

A. Swallow the aspirin with 4 oz. of water.
B. Chew the aspirin for 30 seconds, then swallow it.
C. Swallow the aspirin with 4 oz. Alka Seltzer.   

*In a Texas study, scientists studied aspirin absorption rates and antiplatelet activity on 12 volunteers who took aspirin via these different methods. They frequently monitored blood samples and measured the concentrations of aspirin, its active ingredient (salicylate), and thromboxane B2 (TxB2)

TxB2 is an indicator of platelet activation. Since aspirin inhibits platelet activity (clotting slows down), TxB2 levels will go down. The study revealed which method of aspirin ingestion was best at speeding up aspirin absorption and thus, slowing down clot formation.

Correct answer: B – It takes 5 minutes to reduce TxB2 concentrations by 50% and 14 minutes to reduce it by 100%. Clotting is affected extremely quickly when you chew the aspirin for 30 seconds before swallowing it.

50% Reduction in TxB2

100% Reduction in TxB2

A. Swallow the aspirin with 4 oz. of water

12 min.

26 min.

B. Chew the aspirin for 30 seconds, then swallow it with 4 oz. water 

5 min.

14 min.

C. Swallow the aspirin with 4 oz. of Alka Seltzer

8 min.

16 min.


2. What is the best TYPE of aspirin to take during a possible heart attack?

A. Safety-coated (enteric)** coated aspirin.
B. Non-safety coated (regular) aspirin.

**Aspirin may be coated, so it doesn’t dissolve in your stomach. With the special acid-resistant coating, the aspirin will dissolve and be absorbed in your small intestine instead of your stomach, thus preventing stomach upset and aggravating stomach ulcers.

Correct answer: B – Take REGULAR aspirin for heart attack first aid. An enteric-coated aspirin will take longer to absorb even if it’s chewed.

3. What is the best DOSE of aspirin to take during a possible heart attack?

A. 1 baby (low dose) aspirin 
B. 2 baby (low dose) aspirins 
C. 1 adult regular-strength aspirin
D. 1 adult extra-strength aspirin
(One baby aspirin = 81 mg. One adult regular strength aspirin = 325 mg. One adult extra strength aspirin = 500 mg.)

Correct answer: C – 325 mg or 1 adult regular aspirin. If you only have baby aspirin on hand, chew 4 tablets.

First Aid Steps for Heart Attack Symptoms

  1. Call 911 ASAP! Speak with an operator/EMT BEFORE taking aspirin in case you have an allergy to aspirin or a condition that makes it too risky to use aspirin. Also, it may be dangerous to take aspirin if you are suffering from a stroke or other condition and not a heart attack. NOTE: The FDA advises that you consult with your doctor beforehand, to determine the best course of action in the event you have a heart attack.
  2. Take aspirin.
  3. Take your nitroglycerin as prescribed if you have any.
  4. Unlock the front door, if possible.
  5. Lie down, raise your legs.

Karen’s Fit Tip: Keep a bottle of non-enteric coated adult regular-strength aspirin by your bedside, in the kitchen, family room, and in any other room that you spend a good deal of your time.

Source: American Journal of Cardiology. 1999 Aug 15;84(4):404-9.

Karen Owoc

Karen Owoc is a certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist specializing in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and lifestyle medicine. Her science-based approach to longevity, nutrition, and muscle health has made her the go-to source for health seekers and medical professionals alike. Karen's best-selling book on functional longevity, "Athletes in Aprons: The Nutrition Playbook to Break 100", and her transformative perspective have mended many minds, hearts, and spirits.

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