Medication and Food Supplements

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Aspirin For Pain Relief

Aspirin has been an over-the counter remedy for ages. This powerful medication has a wide range of uses, yet it’s often taken for granted as a mere fever reducer, headache tamer and arthritis soother.

Today this mischaracterization is changing. Aspirin helps prevent heart attacks and strokes and reduces your risk of some cancers. It may even help prevent the recurrence of migraines and slow the mental decline of old age. When Canadians take aspirin now, it’s more likely in an effort to prevent disease than to treat pain and fever.

What is aspirin?

Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. Its naturally occurring precursor, salicylic acid, comes from the bark of willow trees. Both willow bark and modern-day aspirin relieve pain, lower fever and reduce inflammation. Aspirin is often referred to in medical terms as an analgesic, a pain reliever, and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID).

Aspirin and Heart Health

In the last 20 years, researchers confirmed another useful effect of aspirin – it interferes with your blood’s clotting action. Clotting refers to the process by which, when you bleed, cells called platelets accumulate at the injury site. The platelets form a sticky plug that seals the opening in your blood vessel so you don’t continue bleeding.

Aspirin reduces the tendency of your blood to clot by reducing the clumping of your platelets. By this action, aspirin may help reduce or prevent a clot from forming in arteries narrowed by disease (atherosclerosis). That, in turn, will keep your arteries open and reduce your risk of an acute heart attack or stroke. This ability to reduce or prevent a clot from forming does not necessarily carry over to aspirin substitutes, such as Midol or Tylenol.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says chewing an aspirin at the first sign of a heart attack, such as chest pain, could save 5,000 to 10,000 lives each year. Because aspirin makes your blood less likely to clot, it lowers your risk of an obstructed coronary artery. Chewing the aspirin gets the medicine into your bloodstream faster.

If you have unstable angina, aspirin reduces the risk of a heart attack. If you’ve had coronary bypass surgery or balloon angioplasty to clear blocked arteries, aspirin reduces the possibility of additional blockages.

How much aspirin should you take?

Physicians know that most people with coronary artery disease benefit from taking aspirin every day, unless contraindicated. Most doctors recommend one baby aspirin 81 mg or one adult aspirin 325 mg daily following a heart attack.

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