IN DEVELOPED countries like the US, stroke is the number 3 killer, with about 18 percent of its citizens dying from a stroke, which is also the leading cause of disability. There are two main types of stroke. One (ischemic stroke) is caused by blockade of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. When this happens, the brain is deprived of blood and oxygen, and the cells within the brain dies in minutes (more than 6 minutes anoxia or no oxygen), if blood flow is not restored. The other (hemorrhagic stroke) is caused by bleeding into the brain. The majority of strokes are ischemic, and these are the types that aspirin can help prevent.

Stroke warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body, sudden confusion, trouble in speaking or understanding. At times, the patient has trouble seeing with one eye. Or there may be trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance and coordination. Most of the time, there is a sudden unexplained severe headache.

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When a stroke occurs, the part of the brain affected can cause loss of muscle function (weakness or paresis, plegia or paralysis), problems in seeing, feeling, talking, swallowing and understanding speech or all of the above signs and symptoms. Indeed, stroke can be devastating.

Aspirin may help prevent a stroke, a TIA-transient ischemic attack or a mini- stroke. The American Heart Association recommends taking daily aspirin if you have had a TIA or a stroke. The recommemded dose is usually one adult strength aspirin (325 or 300 mg) a day or less.

Atrial fibrillation is a disorder in which the heart's two small chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating as they should. Blood is not pumped completely out of them when the heart beats, so the blood pools and forms blood clots. Now, it is an accepted fact that people with atrial fibrillation have higher risk of stroke. The blood that pools in the atria can form a big blood clot which breaks loose, then pumped out of the heart, enters the circulatory system, travels up to the brain and block a major blood vessel, causing a stroke. Aspirin reduces stroke risk in these people with atrial fibrillation by helping to keep the blood from forming clots. This notwithstanding, persons with atrial fibrillation should discuss their individual risk for stroke with their doctor to decide which medicine is best for them. Furthermore, it must be warned that taking aspirin during a stroke is not advised because some strokes are not caused by blood clots alone. When there is a ruptured blood vessel e.g due to very high blood pressure or a ruptured cerebral aneurysm, taking aspirin could actually make the hemorrhagic (bleeding stroke worse. Thus, aspirin usefulness is appreciated more in its role in preventing a ischemic stroke.

Tell your doctor about all other medicines including your over the counter meds and vitamins you are taking on a regular basis. These can affect your need for aspirin and how well it works. Review your use of aspirin with your doctor if you are scheduled for surgery. Volunteer the information of aspirin use to your dentist too. Aspirin is a vitamin K antagonist. Vitamin K is the anti-hemorrhagic vitamin, so-called because it is important in the synthesis and formation of Clotting factor II or Prothrombin. Aspirin use affects the ability of the blood to clot and makes bleeding longer. Aspirin taken by persons who drink alcohol; may cause excessive bruising of the skin. And remember, aspirin, like penicillin are among the most allergenic (allergy-causing) drugs.