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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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Big Questions
Who Was Chuck Taylor?
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From Betty Crocker to Tommy Bahama, plenty of popular labels are "named" after fake people. But one product with a bona fide backstory to its moniker is Converse's Chuck Taylor All-Star sneakers. The durable gym shoes are beloved by everyone from jocks to hipsters. But who's the man behind the cursive signature on the trademark circular ankle patch?

As journalist Abraham Aamidor recounted in his 2006 book Chuck Taylor, All Star: The True Story of the Man behind the Most Famous Athletic Shoe in History, Chuck Taylor was a former pro basketball player-turned-Converse salesman whose personal brand and tireless salesmanship were instrumental to the shoes' success.

Charles Hollis Taylor was born on July 24, 1901, and raised in southern Indiana. Basketball—the brand-new sport invented by James Naismith in 1891—was beginning to take the Hoosier State by storm. Taylor joined his high school team, the Columbus High School Bull Dogs, and was named captain.

After graduation, instead of heading off to college, Taylor launched his semi-pro career playing basketball with the Columbus Commercials. He’d go on to play for a handful of other teams across the Midwest, including the the Akron Firestone Non-Skids in Ohio, before finally moving to Chicago in 1922 to work as a sales representative for the Converse Rubber Shoe Co. (The company's name was eventually shortened to Converse, Inc.)

Founded in Malden, Massachusetts, in 1908 as a rubber shoe manufacturer, Converse first began producing canvas shoes in 1915, since there wasn't a year-round market for galoshes. They introduced their All-Star canvas sports shoes two years later, in 1917. It’s unclear whether Chuck was initially recruited to also play ball for Converse (by 1926, the brand was sponsoring a traveling team) or if he was simply employed to work in sales. However, we do know that he quickly proved himself to be indispensable to the company.

Taylor listened carefully to customer feedback, and passed on suggestions for shoe improvements—including more padding under the ball of the foot, a different rubber compound in the sole to avoid scuffs, and a patch to protect the ankle—to his regional office. He also relied on his basketball skills to impress prospective clients, hosting free Chuck Taylor basketball clinics around the country to teach high school and college players his signature moves on the court.

In addition to his myriad other job duties, Taylor played for and managed the All-Stars, a traveling team sponsored by Converse to promote their new All Star shoes, and launched and helped publish the Converse Basketball Yearbook, which covered the game of basketball on an annual basis.

After leaving the All-Stars, Taylor continued to publicize his shoe—and own personal brand—by hobnobbing with customers at small-town sporting goods stores and making “special appearances” at local basketball games. There, he’d be included in the starting lineup of a local team during a pivotal game.

Taylor’s star grew so bright that in 1932, Converse added his signature to the ankle patch of the All Star shoes. From that point on, they were known as Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Still, Taylor—who reportedly took shameless advantage of his expense account and earned a good salary—is believed to have never received royalties for the use of his name.

In 1969, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The same year, he died from a heart attack on June 23, at the age of 67. Around this time, athletic shoes manufactured by companies like Adidas and Nike began replacing Converse on the court, and soon both Taylor and his namesake kicks were beloved by a different sort of customer.

Still, even though Taylor's star has faded over the decades, fans of his shoe continue to carry on his legacy: Today, Converse sells more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors a day, 365 days a year, to retro-loving customers who can't get enough of the athlete's looping cursive signature.

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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Big Questions
What Is the Difference Between Generic and Name Brand Ibuprofen?
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What is the difference between generic ibuprofen vs. name brands?

Yali Friedman:

I just published a paper that answers this question: Are Generic Drugs Less Safe than their Branded Equivalents?

Here’s the tl;dr version:

Generic drugs are versions of drugs made by companies other than the company which originally developed the drug.

To gain FDA approval, a generic drug must:

  • Contain the same active ingredients as the innovator drug (inactive ingredients may vary)
  • Be identical in strength, dosage form, and route of administration
  • Have the same use indications
  • Be bioequivalent
  • Meet the same batch requirements for identity, strength, purity, and quality
  • Be manufactured under the same strict standards of FDA's good manufacturing practice regulations required for innovator products

I hope you found this answer useful. Feel free to reach out at www.thinkbiotech.com. For more on generic drugs, you can see our resources and whitepapers at Pharmaceutical strategic guidance and whitepapers

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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