Showing posts with label aspirin and heart attacks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aspirin and heart attacks. Show all posts

Friday, November 30, 2012

After a Heart Attack - Beware of OTCs


A heart attack is a life changing event that often leaves the patient and family members reeling. This is a sobering health concern that, once it happens, life is never the same. Heart attack patients need to take special precautions for the future, including but not limited to diet, exercise, and of course, the use of common painkillers that could have potentially deadly effects.

Research suggests that the use of typical painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen can pose a risk for patients after suffering their first heart attack. A study of 100,000 first-time heart attack patients, published in the American Heart Association's (AHA) journal, Circulation, found that patients using NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) were more likely to have a second heart attack, or worse, to die, within the half-decade following their initial heart attack. NBC News online cited this study and points out that the AHA advised that anyone who has suffered a heart attack should discuss any use of NSAIDs with their doctor before using them.

aspirin and heart attacks
OTC painkillers called NSAIDs
can be dangerous for people
who have suffered a heart
attack.

What OTC medications are considered NSAIDs? As mentioned above, ibuprofen and naproxen are considered NSAIDs. They are also sold by brand names like Advil, Motrin and Aleve. Aspirin is also an NSAID that is available over the counter. NSAIDs are also available by prescription. It is important to tell your primary doctor if you have suffered a heart attack in the past. However, because OTC medications are available at pharmacies, grocery stores and even convenience stores, it is important for heart attack sufferers to be aware of the serious risks involved with taking them.

What Is a Heart Attack?

Perhaps it helps to more fully understand the concern of using OTC pain killers by first examining exactly what a heart attack involves. The American Heart Association describes a heart attack as occurring “when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked (often by a blood clot).” The cause of heart attack is related to the coronary arteries becoming harder and thicker as they are congested with plaque, a buildup of cholesterol, fat, and other material. If bits of plaque break off and form a clot that blocks the blood flow, a person can have a heart attack.

Some common symptoms of a heart attack are shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort, and pain or discomfort of one or both arms, the neck, jaw, back, or stomach. Heart attack victims may also break into a cold sweat or experience nausea or become lightheaded.

If you or someone you know begins to experience these heart attack symptoms, it is critical to get to a hospital as soon as possible. It is best to call 9-1-1 to get emergency help as soon as possible.

Heart Attack Treatments and Precautions

We often discuss aspirin and heart attacks together because an aspirin a day can be prescribed as a preventive measure for heart attack and stroke. People who think they are having a heart attack are told to chew an aspirin right away. It's important to note the difference between taking an NSAID as prevention and self-prescribing it for treatment of pain after a heart attack. Before taking any over the counter medication, it is important to check first with your doctor to avoid any side effects.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute reports that at-risk patients can take aspirin for heart attack prevention in order to thin the blood and avoid new blood clots. Aspirin is considered an anti-clotting medicine. These medications prevent platelets from clumping together to form new blood clots, lowering a patient’s risk of having a heart attack.

Some other effective treatments for heart attack patients include treatment to manage the chest pain, oxygen therapy, nitroglycerin, angioplasty, and medicines to eliminate clots in the bloodstream. Beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and anticoagulants comprise some other medicines for heart attacks while bypass surgery is another possible treatment. Even patients suffering a mild heart attack should be seen by a doctor and evaluated for heart damage and ongoing risk factors.

The availability of over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen is a cause for concern, as OTC drugs are considered "safe" by most consumers. It’s a scary thought that heart attack survivors may unknowingly be putting themselves at greater risk of another heart attack or even death. If you are a heart attack survivor with a need for painkillers, be sure to consult your family physician as well as your cardiologist to help you make the best decisions for your health care.

Kathryn M. D’Imperio
Contributing Writer