Researchers say they've found the most effective drug in limiting the possibility of a stroke, and it's something almost everyone has in their medicine cabinet.
Plain old aspirin, previously thought to have a minor effect on stroke patients, could reduce the likelihood of a stroke by as much as 80 percent after a patient experiences what's known as a transient ischemic attack.
TIAs are "little glitches in consciousness or control of our bodies" that represent "critical interruptions in the flow of blood to the brain," writes Dr. James Hamblin in The Atlantic.
"When the blood is away long enough that brain cells die in appreciable numbers, this is a stroke," Hamblin writes. "More often, though, the blood returns quickly, and the person recovers fully. This is the less-discussed phenomenon known as a transient ischemic attack. But it is no less important."
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Because TIAs are precursors to strokes, the warning signs that let a person know they're heading toward a real stroke, taking aspirin within a few moments of an attack can help prevent the more damaging onset of a stroke.
“It is essential that aspirin is given to patients with suspected TIA or minor stroke immediately," according to the researchers, an international team of scientists who presented their findings in the medical journal The Lancet.
Aspirin is the "key intervention," the researchers write, and "the considerable early benefit from aspirin warrants public education about self-administration after possible TIA."
Hamblin stressed that aspirin is a band-aid, not a cure. He also cautioned that while the data is convincing enough to warrant keeping aspirin on hand for emergencies, it's not a replacement for medical treatment.
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"While emergency aspirin is no curative measure in any case," he wrote, "it would appear today to be an accessible, low-cost approach to minimizing the chances of a clot forming that could finish a person with a major stroke."