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How Does Aspirin Help During a Heart Attack?

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The heart is the most important muscle in the body, so it seems like something of a marketing ploy by the folks at Bayer to suggest that something so simple as a humble aspirin tablet can be of any use when this life-sustaining organ goes into epic fail mode. But it’s true: next to calling 911 immediately, taking an aspirin is one of your best bets when it comes to surviving a cardiac event. As Ben Affleck once said in a shampoo commercial, here comes the science.

We all have platelets in our blood – specialized disc-shaped cells that cling together to form a clot. Blood clots serve an important purpose; when you cut yourself shaving or smack your nose against someone’s fist, the body detects a disruption in the lining of a blood vessel and sends platelets scrambling to the injured area to stop the bleeding.

Sometimes, though, platelets get confused and rush to block an uninjured vessel. In the case of a heart attack, it’s usually a plaque (a cholesterol-rich build-up of gunk) that was attached to the wall of a vessel and suddenly ruptured. Even though there is no bleeding taking place, the rupture attracts the platelets and they build their customary blood-stopping barrier. The clot ends up blocking a healthy vein and deprives the heart of necessary oxygen-rich blood and causes a portion of the muscle to die. End result: heart attack.

Making Platelets Less Sticky

Among aspirin’s other properties, such as fever and pain reduction, it also has an inhibitory effect on platelets in the blood. It somehow makes the platelets less “sticky” and less likely to clump together. And less is better in this case - too much aspirin can cause stomach upset and uncontrollable bleeding, which is why one baby aspirin (81 mg) per day has been determined to be the optimal dosage to keep the blood flowing smoothly without adverse side effects.

Of course, everyone should check with a physician before beginning a daily aspirin regimen. However, if you or a loved one is showing symptoms of a heart attack, do not hesitate to administer a non-coated regular-strength aspirin tablet with a glass of water. Studies have shown that the pill works faster (eight minutes versus up to 20 minutes) if the patient chews it before swallowing.

Rosie O’Donnell credits aspirin with saving her life during her recent cardiac event. Interestingly enough, my Dad had a heart attack in 1990 and his symptoms were almost identical to Rosie’s. O’Donnell had struggled to assist an overweight woman out of her car one afternoon and then noticed aching in her arms and a slight pain in her chest later in the day. My Dad had aching in his arms one evening and a slight tightness in his chest, but charged the symptoms off to having been repairing the doorbell earlier and having held his arms overhead for so long. In both cases there was no “elephant on the chest” sensation or major pain in the left arm only. And Dad’s doctor later credited his daily baby aspirin regimen with saving his life, since once he recovered sufficiently for surgery he required a quintuple bypass.

Moral of the story: if you’re over 35, ask your doctor about aspirin. If you suddenly feel any sort of unusual pain or discomfort in your arms, chest and/or lower jaw do not hesitate to get thee to the emergency room ASAP.

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How Are Royal Babies Named?
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Jack Taylor, Getty Images

After much anticipation, England's royal family has finally received a tiny new addition. The birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's second son was confirmed by Kensington Palace on April 23, but the name of the royal newborn has yet to be announced. For the heir to the British throne and his wife, choosing a name for their third child—who is already fifth in line to the throne—likely won't be as easy as flipping through a baby name book; it's tradition for royals to select names that honor important figures from British history.

According to ABC WJLA, selecting three or four names is typical when naming a royal baby. Will and Kate followed this unwritten rule when naming their first child, George Alexander Louis, and their second, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Each name is an opportunity to pay homage to a different British royal who came before them. Some royal monikers have less savory connotations (Prince Harry's given name, Henry, is reminiscent of a certain wife-beheading monarch), but typically royal babies are named for people who held a significant and honorable spot in the family tree.

Because there's a limited pool of honorable monarchs from which to choose, placing bets on the royal baby name as the due date approaches has become a popular British pastime. One name that keeps cropping up this time around is James; the original King James ruled in the early 17th century, and it has been 330 years since a monarch named James wore the crown.

If the royal family does go with James for the first name of their youngest son, that still leaves at least a couple of slots to be filled. So far, the couple has stuck with three names each for their children, but there doesn't seem to be a limit; Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne to George VI in 1936, shouldered the full name of Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Why Does the Queen Have Two Birthdays?
CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images
CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images

On April 21, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will turn 92 years old. To mark the occasion, there are usually a series of gun salutes around London: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London. For the most part, the monarch celebrates her big day privately. But on June 9, 2018, Her Majesty will parade through London as part of an opulent birthday celebration known as Trooping the Colour.

Queen Elizabeth, like many British monarchs before her, has two birthdays: the actual anniversary of the day she was born, and a separate day that is labeled her "official" birthday (usually the second Saturday in June). Why? Because April 21 is usually too cold for a proper parade.

The tradition started in 1748, with King George II, who had the misfortune of being born in chilly November. Rather than have his subjects risk catching colds, he combined his birthday celebration with the Trooping the Colour.

The parade itself had been part of British culture for almost a century by that time. At first it was strictly a military event, at which regiments displayed their flags—or "colours"—so that soldiers could familiarize themselves. But George was known as a formidable general after having led troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, so the military celebration seemed a fitting occasion onto which to graft his warm-weather birthday. Edward VII, who also had a November birthday, was the first to standardize the June Trooping the Colour and launched a tradition of a monarchical review of the troops that drew crowds of onlookers.

Even now, the date of the "official" birthday varies year to year. For the first seven years of her reign, Elizabeth II held her official birthday on a Thursday but has since switched over to Saturdays. And while the date is tied to the Trooping the Colour in the UK, Commonwealth nations around the world have their own criteria, which generally involve recognizing it as a public holiday.

Australia started recognizing an official birthday back in 1788, and all the provinces (save one) observe the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June, with Western Australia holding its celebrations on the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October.

In Canada, the official birthday has been set to align with the actual birth date of Queen Victoria—May 24, 1819—since 1845, and as such they celebrate so-called Victoria Day on May 24 or the Monday before.

In New Zealand, it's the first Monday in June, and in the Falkland Islands the actual day of the Queen's birth is celebrated publicly.

All in all, just another reason it's great to be Queen.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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