|MadSci Network: General Biology|
Hi Jenny, Aspirin is often used to prevent heart attacks in people with atherosclerosis and also to protect people who have already had heart attacks from recurrences. Often heart attacks are caused when a blood clot that has formed on a blood vessel (most often because of the formation of plaques on the blood vessel wall which actually reduce the volume of the vessel available for blood flow) breaks off and plugs a vessel in the blood supply to the heart (coronary arteries and capillaries). When this happens, the part of the heart muscle deprived of oxygen dies, causing a heart attack. Now aspirin, in addition to its effects as an analgesic (pain killer), also inhibits one of the enzymes involved in blood clot formation. For your information that enzyme is called cyclooxygenase. Anyway, you can see how preventing blood clots in people with atherosclerosis may prevent heart attacks. Also, people who have had heart attacks are more prone to have another one so it makes sense to take aspirin in that case too. Hope this helps, Terry
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