On average, U.S. adults have hearts that are seven years older than they should be. Over 50 percent of children aged 10-14 years have middle-aged hearts, that is, they show evidence of early heart disease — fatty streaks and plaque in the arteries. Here’s how to identify who’s at risk and what you can do to save your life.

Conditions and Behaviors that Lead to Heart Disease

Many of the conditions and behaviors that put people at risk for heart disease are appearing at younger ages, such as:

  • Diabetes — 1 in 3 have pre-diabetes and many are unaware that they have it. Over 1 in 10 people in the U.S. have diabetes.
  • Obesity — 1 in 3 adults; 1 in 6 children/adolescents have obesity.
  • Smoking — More than 35 million U.S, adults currently smoke.
  • Physical inactivity — Only 1 in 4 adults meets the meet the physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes per day.
  • Unhealthy eating patterns — Too much sodium, sugar, and saturated fat; only about 1 in 10 adults eat enough fruits and vegetables each day.
  • High cholesterol —Having all of the above — diabetes and/or obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, and eating unhealthy foods can all lead to unhealthy cholesterol levels)
  • High blood pressure — About half of people with high blood pressure don’t have it under control, which is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and stroke.

NOTE: COVID-19 lockdowns have caused these conditions and behaviors to become even more pervasive.

What to Do If You Have Heart Attack Symptoms

Why Aspirin?

Aspirin can stop a heart attack. 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. Aspirin, an “antiplatelet”, helps inhibit platelet activity (prevent blood clots from forming). 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 of the essence, so it’s critical to know how the aspirin works the fastest.clpclo

Best DOSE of Aspirin to Stop a Heart Attack

  • 1 adult regular-strength aspirin or 4 baby aspirin*

One baby aspirin = 81 mg. One adult regular strength aspirin = 325 mg. One adult extra strength aspirin = 500 mg.

Fastest Way to Dissolve the Clot

  • Chew the aspirin for 30 SECONDS, then swallow it with 4 oz. of water.

Best TYPE of Aspirin

  • Non-safety coated (regular) aspirin – Coated aspirin doesn’t dissolve in your stomach, it dissolves and is absorbed in the small intestine, so it’ll take longer to absorb.

*Take aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) — not Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin), Naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol), which are pain relievers, not antiplatelet drugs.

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 slows clotting 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.

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.

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: Consult with your doctor beforehand, to determine the best course of action in the event you have a heart attack.

  1. Take aspirin.
  2. Take your nitroglycerin as prescribed if you have any.
  3. Unlock the front door, if possible.
  4. Lie down, raise your legs.

How Much Time Do You Have to Get Medical Attention?

At the first symptom of a heart attack, it’s critical to administer heart attack “first aid” and be at the hospital within 30 minutes or less to prevent irreversible heart damage or death.

You Have 90 Minutes to Increase Your Survival Rate! Typically, men wait 16 hours to seek medical attention and women 54 hours when symptoms occur.

  • 30 minutes for an initial EMS assessment and transport (via ground or air). 
  • 30 minutes for the Emergency Department to perform an assessment and to mobilize the cardiology team.
  • 30 minutes from the start of the procedure in the cardiac catherization lab to opening the blocked artery. 

Karen’s Fit Tip: Be prepared. 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 — including in your purse, car, golf bag, etc.

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