1. Health

If that Heart Attack Email Fooled My Husband, It Can Fool You, Too

By September 9, 2010

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The email screams "I never knew you shouldn't lie down if you're having a heart attack!" My husband forwarded it to me so I would know not to lie down if I have a heart attack. Millions of others forwarded it to their friends and loved ones, too.

I wonder if you have seen that email, and possibly forwarded it, too. Did you know you were forwarding bogus information that was really just an advertisement for that aspirin? Because, by the way! A major aspirin manufacturer is now making special dissolving aspirin! (The email includes that information along with a photo of the new aspirin box.)

However - there are several statements that aren't true - which means that not only did that aspirin manufacturer get lots of free advertising -- but they got it at your expense. If you believe it, it could harm you.

How do I know? I've asked two cardiologists about it - Both Dr. Rich Fogoros (Heart Disease Guide here at About.com) and Dr. Robert Carhart (cardiologist from Upstate Medical University) -- and here is their feedback based on statements made in the email:

Claim: DO NOT LIE DOWN!

Wrong! It seems that, depending on your circumstances, lying down may be exactly what you need to do. You may need to lie down with your feet propped if your blood pressure is too low, so that blood continues to pump to your brain. On the other hand, if there is fluid around your heart, then you will do better to sit up. How will you know? Your body will tell you what to do. If you have trouble breathing while you lie down, then sit up - get as comfortable as you can - just be sure to rest quietly while waiting for EMTs.

Claim: If you feel a heart attack coming on, dissolve two aspirins in your mouth and swallow them with some water.

Wrong! According to our doctors, one aspirin is the current recommendation - and chewing the aspirin (not coated) is as effective as an aspirin that has been made to dissolve (which the manufacturer who started this email wants you to buy - which is no doubt more expensive than a regular old aspirin.)

Claim: That people who take a daily low-dose aspirin should take it at night because it will be more effective.

Not clearly substantiated. According to Dr. Carhart: There have been several studies, all done by the same investigator, that have shown that taking your daily aspirin at night can lower your blood pressure. If you take it at other times, it does not seem to have an effect. Now this was a small study, done by a Professor of Chronobiology, which I assume would involve the study of circadian rhythms (your internal clock). Some of the additional claims seem to be an extrapolation of this study.

There are several more claims and suggestions in this email that are less harmful - maybe even helpful. But not sorting out which is or isn't becomes problematic, and potentially dangerous.

Please please please! Whenever you get one of these chain emails that makes any kinds of health claims - please don't just send it on, no matter how credible it sounds. Before you forward it -- heck, before you believe it yourself! -- be confident it is correct by checking out the claims. If you can't get it confirmed? Then send it to me - and I'll check it out for you.

The life (and inbox) you save may be your own.

..........................................

From Dr. Rich - Read about the current recommendations for taking an aspirin while you wait for paramedics

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Comments
April 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm
(1) jerryd says:

“as an aspirin that has been made to dissolve (which the manufacturer who started this email wants you to buy – which is no doubt more expensive than a regular old aspirin.)”

Actually, Bayer that markets ‘crystals’ version of aspirin recommends AGAINST using it in a heart attack situation.

See:
http://www.wonderdrug.com/faq.htm#q0 or
http://www.snopes.com/medical/drugs/aspirin.asp

April 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm
(2) Sheri says:

I got that same message on Facebook, and in addition to all of the above, it said to take the aspirin and THEN call 911. You should ALWAYS call 911 first. The faster emergency personnel get to you, the better, even if it’ll just take you a few minutes to take aspirin. In ANY emergency situation, always call 911 first. In addition to getting trained medical professionals to you quicker, the instructions from the 911 operator could differ from what YOU believe you should do…and could save your life.

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