Over 1 million individuals in the US suffer heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) each year. Almost 500,000 individuals die of heart attacks each year, which translates to 1 in every 5 deaths being due to a heart attack. (American Heart Association)
Certainly, as is true of every disease, it is best to prevent yourself from getting heart disease. Eat right, exercise, don’t smoke, get born with a better gene milieu. But what can you do if you suddenly develop chest pain (with or without exertion) maybe radiating into your left arm, maybe with some shortness of breath and you, as Fred Sanford used to say, think that this is the “big one”? First, get yourself to medical care and if you think you are having a heart attack calling 911 should be high on your list. Besides getting you to the ER quicker, the folks in the rescue squad can give you oxygen and medications that may be very beneficial in the situation of a heart attack. Also, if things “go bad” they can provide necessary care and resuscitation.
But the thing I want you to think about is aspirin. Yes, the lowly aspirin tablet can be a life saver. Several studies have shown that in the case of an acute myocardial infarction, an aspirin taken as soon as possible in the course of its evolution can save heart muscle (decrease the amount of damage done) and can save lives. One study projected that aspirin administration in the course of a myocardial infarction could save 10,000 people a year. If you are at risk maybe you should carry them with you or have someone grab one for you as you’re waiting for the rescue squad.
And just as Fred Sanford lived to say something comparable to “Oh, this is the biggest one I ever had. You hear that Elizabeth? I'm coming to join you honey” multiple times, snacking down (chew and swallow, no matter how bitter) a regular strength (325 mg) aspirin tablet during a heart attack may allow you to live longer.