If you’re having a heart attack, immediately taking aspirin may help to minimize any injury to your heart. Here’s what to do:
- Note that you’re having symptoms of a heart attack (see list below).
- Call 911 or your local emergency services number.
- Chew (regardless of the type) and then swallow four 81-mg or one 325-mg aspirin (as long as you’re not allergic to aspirin or know of some other reason you shouldn’t take it).
Signs and symptoms of heart attack include the following:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
If you have any suspicion that you may be having a heart attack, seek help. The faster you get help, the better your chance of survival and of less damage to your heart.
If you think you are having a stroke, on the other hand, aspirin is not usually recommended. While most strokes are caused by blood clots, some are caused by blood hemorrhaging (bleeding) and would be made worse by taking aspirin. Common signs and symptoms of stroke include sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the body, slurred speech, blurred vision, or a severe headache. If you have these symptoms or see them in someone else, call for help immediately.
It’s a good idea to review these recommendations with your doctor at a routine appointment so you’re sure that they are (or are not) the best thing for you to do if you think you’re having a heart attack or stroke.