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Do you take ibuprofen for your headaches? Here are 5 things to know about the potential dangers of taking it and other NSAIDs

Published: Friday, September 08, 2017 @ 11:48 AM
Updated: Friday, September 08, 2017 @ 11:48 AM

Ibuprofen is one of the most common over-the-counter pain relievers used worldwide But researchers have long warned against its risk of heart attack and stroke Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen could increase the risk of heart attack by 31% Both diclofenac and ibuprofen were found to be the most commonly used NSAIDs in heart attack cases Ibuprofen and naproxen are available over the counter in the U.S. but require prescriptions in Denmark NSAIDS should be used with caution Avoi

Some of the most common and widely-used over-the-counter medications are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), so it's easy to assume that they're completely safe for everyone to take. That's not always the case, however. 

In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strengthened an existing warning on over-the-counter NSAIDs, noting that, in some cases, these medications can cause very serious or even fatal side effects.

RELATED: Do you need 8 glasses of water per day? 6 myths and truths about water 

If you're one of the many people who takes NSAIDs even occasionally, here are five things you need to know about these over-the-counter drugs:

What are NSAIDs and how do they work?

NSAIDs are pain relievers that help reduce pain and inflammation by blocking the production of chemicals associated with these symptoms. They're used for a wide variety of ailments, including muscle pain, arthritis, toothaches, menstrual cramps and more. These medications are readily available over-the-counter in a wide variety of name brands as well as generics, and higher doses can be prescribed by a doctor.

The following are some common over-the-counter NSAIDs:

  • Aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin)
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB)
  • Naproxen (Aleve)

What risks are involved?

Any drug can cause side effects or an allergic reaction, but NSAIDs have been associated with an increased chance of having a heart attack or stroke. The risk may rise the longer you use NSAIDs, though it's still a possibility even if you've only used the drug for a short period of time.

Although aspirin is an NSAID, it isn't included in this revised warning. Aspirin helps protect against heart attacks, since it prevents platelets from clumping together and forming dangerous clots. Non-aspirin NSAIDs can affect an enzyme that promotes clotting, so they can raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

In addition, people who take NSAIDs are more likely to have ulcers and kidney issues.

Should you keep taking NSAIDs?

That's a conversation you should have with your doctor. You should talk with him or her about your use of the medication, how it affects your pain and inflammation and whether an alternative medication may provide the same benefits but be safer for you to take.

NSAIDs may be safest for young people without a history of cardiovascular disease who use them only occasionally, said Peter Wilson, an Emory University professor of medicine and health. He recommends that people who are over age 65 and have a history of heart disease be particularly cautious.

The FDA also recommended taking your risk factors for heart disease into account. If you smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, your risk can be higher. If you have a history of ulcers or kidney disease, you should also talk to your doctor about alternatives to NSAIDs.

What should you do if you continue to take NSAIDs?

If you smoke, work on quitting, and take care of your other risk factors while seeing your doctor regularly, according to the FDA.

In addition, take the smallest effective dose, since higher doses are linked to an increased risk of side effects. Low to moderate doses are often successful at treating swelling and pain. And when your pain has been reduced to a dull ache, try to stop taking NSAIDs and switch to another way relieve your pain.

Be sure to read labels of other medications to make sure that they don't also contain an NSAID, or you could be inadvertently double-dosing. For example, cold medications that treat multiple symptoms often include an NSAID.

What are some alternatives to try?

You can talk to your doctor about other medications, but you should also discuss any side effects they may have.

Harvard Medical School recommends the following non-medicinal alternatives:
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback
  • Heat from a hot shower, bath or heating pad
  • Ice
  • Yoga or stretching
  • Physical therapy

Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 1:06 PM


Joe Raedle/Getty Images
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Most people believe that the influenza virus is spread through the coughs and sneezes of infected people, but new research published Thursday suggests that the flu virus is spread more easily than previously thought.

>> Read more trending news

Medical professionals believe that the virus is spread most often by “droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers studying how the virus spreads recently found large amounts of the virus in the breath of people suffering from the flu, according to the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

>> Related: Influenza surveillance map: Where is the flu in my state? 

The researchers -- from the University of Maryland, San Jose State University, Missouri Western State University and the University of California, Berkeley -- published their findings Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing,” said Donald Milton, professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead researcher for the study.

Milton and his team examined the virus content in the breath of 142 people who were diagnosed with flu as they were breathing normally, speaking, coughing and sneezing. Researchers found that a majority of those who participated in the study had enough of the infectious virus in just their regular, exhaled breath to possibly infect another person.

A review of the data collected from the coughs and sneezes of infected participants showed that neither action appeared to have a large impact on whether or not the virus was spread.

>> Related: 11 things parents need to know about the flu, the vaccine, how long kids need to stay out of school  

“People with flu generate infectious aerosols (tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time), even when they are not coughing and especially during the first days of illness,” Milton said.

The study’s authors said the results highlighted how necessary it is for people who have the flu to stay at home.

>> Related: What is the H3N2 flu and how bad is flu season this year? 

“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University. “Staying home and out of public spaces could make a difference in the spread of the influenza virus.”

<p>5 Reasons to get a Flu Shot</p>(Bryan Erdy/News | WHBQ)

5 questions every woman in her 40s should ask her doctor

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 10:36 AM

Women are waiting longer on average to have babies. Now there’s a push for women in their 20s and 30s to spend thousands of dollars to have their eggs stored. So they can improve their chances for pregnancy later in life. Freezing tiny embryos is also an option. At Reproductive Biology Associates, a fertility clinic in Atlanta, lab workers fertilize patients’ eggs, one by one, with sperm. This lab worker uses a tube and the suction of her breath to hold the material in place for the delicate pro

Women who are in their 40s are in many cases reaching a new stage in their lives. Your children may be more independent, and you might have a well-established career. It can also be a time of change, when it's easier to gain weight, and you may start to see the first signs of menopause.

»RELATED: 4 questions every woman in her 30s should ask her doctor

Being informed about the changes you may face during your 40s is an important way to protect your health for many years to come. It pays to have regular checkups and discuss any potential issues or concerns with your doctor. In addition, you may want to undergo some health screenings to confirm or rule out problems that may be more common after age 40.

The following are five questions every woman in her 40s should ask her doctor:

What supplements should I take?

It's common for women in their 40s to be deficient in nutrients such as vitamin D, according to DoctorOz.com, so it's important to ask your doctor if you should be taking any supplements. This vitamin helps your body absorb calcium, which protects against osteoporosis-related bone loss – a particular concern as you get older.

A blood test can check your vitamin D levels, and if they're low, you may be advised stop smoking, start resistance training and add a supplement to your daily routine.

Should I be tested for diabetes?

Your risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases with age, especially after you're 45, according to Healthline. A blood test can determine whether your body is using insulin efficiently enough to help your body maintain consistent blood glucose levels.

You're at particular risk of developing type 2 diabetes if you're overweight, have a family history of the disease or have a history of gestational diabetes. If you have this disease, you're at an increased risk of developing heart disease, blindness and depression.

How can I control my weight?

Women's metabolism slows after age 40, and as a result, you'll need to eat less and exercise in order to maintain the same weight, according to DoctorOz.com. You may also have hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid gland that can result in weight gain. If you're gaining weight, it's worth asking your doctor about, especially if you have dry skin, feel tired and are less able to tolerate cold temperatures.

Your doctor can treat hypothyroidism and also suggest an appropriate fitness plan that takes into account your age, weight and health history.

Should I keep taking birth control pills?

If you're in your 40s, you may think you've left your child-bearing years behind, but that's not necessarily true. Unless you've been menopausal for more than a year, you'll still need to take birth control. The second highest rate of unintended pregnancy is for sexually active women who are age 40 to 50, JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of The North American Menopause Society, told the Chicago Tribune.

Doctors have differing opinions on whether you should keep taking birth control pills after age 40, so talk to your doctor to find out what form of contraception he or she recommends for you.

What about menopause?

You may not be thinking about menopause yet, but it's normal for this process to occur at any age from 40 to 59, according to familydoctor.org. For an indication about when this might happen, look to when the older women in your family reached menopause. Although this can influence when you enter menopause, it's not guaranteed.

After menopause, your body produces less estrogen, and this may increase your risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association says. Heart disease is the number-one threat to women's health. Talk to your doctor about symptoms that could indicate your may be headed toward menopause and whether hormone replacement therapy is recommended.

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5 questions every man in his 40s should ask his doctor

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 2:28 PM

Here are 5 health questions every man in his 30s should ask his doctor Do I need any immunizations? Should I be worried about this blemish on my skin? Should I be concerned about heart disease? Is my back pain normal? What are the main signs of depression and other mental health conditions?

Men are notorious for not wanting to go to the doctor unless they're desperate. But routine doctor's visits – especially when you hit your 40s and beyond – can help you be as healthy as possible. Getting regular care and screenings can help your doctor catch and treat issues while they're in their earliest stages.

»RELATED: 4 health questions every man in his 30s should ask his doctor

The following are five questions every man in his 40s should ask at his next doctor's exam:

What screenings do I need?

After age 40, family history plays a greater role in what your particular health concerns may be, according to Men's Journal. For example, if you have a family history of colon or prostate cancer, you'll want to start getting screened every five years in your 40s rather than waiting until the usually-recommended age of 50.

You'll also want to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol by getting a full lipid panel every three years – or more often if there's an issue. You should also have your blood glucose level checked, particularly if you're overweight.

Could I be depressed?

Middle-aged men can be at risk for depression or even suicide, but they're often less likely to seek help than women are. Suicide rates for men ages 45 to 64 increased by 43 percent in the years from 1999 to 2014, according to Men's Health.

Many men who are suffering from depression may not experience the typical sadness that's associated with this disorder. They may have a change in sleep patterns, fatigue, a diminished interest in sex or feeling a lack of purpose and connection to life. Increased substance abuse is also a common indication that you may be depressed.

Should I be tested for sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. This deprives your brain and the rest of your body of the oxygen it needs to function at your best and increases your risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and type 2 diabetes, WebMD says.

If you're a man over 40, you're at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, especially if you're overweight. Other risk factors include having a neck size of 17 inches or greater, a family history of sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and nasal obstruction due to allergies or sinus issues.

If your doctor thinks you may have sleep apnea, he or she can refer you to a sleep specialist. A sleep study, which measures and records what happens to your body as you sleep, can help confirm or rule out the presence of sleep apnea.

Should I be taking a statin?

Statins are cholesterol-busting drugs, and they're now recommended for people ages 40 to 75 who have one or more risk factors that make them have a 10 percent or greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years. The Washington Post says that with these new guidelines, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has greatly expanded the number of people who should take statins.

Risk factors that could cause your doctor to recommend statins include smoking or having high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.

How can I reduce or prevent a "spare tire?"

As men hit middle age, many tend to gain weight around the middle, which is commonly known as a "spare tire," WebMD says. Studies show that gaining weight in this area is a predictor of heart disease and diabetes, even more so than overall obesity is.

Talk to your doctor about what you can do to lose weight and target extra weight around the middle. He or she can point you to a weight loss and fitness plan that's appropriate for your age, weight and any health considerations you may have.

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Is feeding a cold a real thing? 5 winter health myths debunked

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

We separate fact from fiction with the following five winter health myths MYTH: Cold weather can make you get sick FACT: We're more likely to get sick in colder months because we're all cooped up together MYTH: You lose 90 percent of your body heat through your head FACT: You could cover up any other exposed body part and also feel warmer MYTH: You don't need sunscreen in the winter TRUTH: Up to 80 percent of the sun's rays can still penetrate the clouds MYTH: Feed a cold, starve a fever TRUTH: You need t

You've probably heard winter health myths for years and you may have even accepted some of them as fact.

From being told to bundle up, so you don't catch a cold to your neighbor swearing he got the flu from his flu shot, these myths make the rounds every winter.

Breathe easy: 5 household plants that improve air quality

We separate fact from fiction with the following five winter health myths:

Stock photo

Cold weather can make you get sick.

Mom always warned you you'd get sick if you didn't bundle up before heading out in cold weather. Her advice wasn't exactly horrible, since you'll certainly be more comfortable and protected from frostbite. But cold by itself doesn't make you more likely to get sick, according to The Weather Channel. Most experts think we're more likely to get sick in colder months, but that's because we're all cooped up together, exchanging germs. Cold weather also dries out your nasal passages, reducing their ability to filter out infections. Despite evidence to the contrary, moms will probably keep warning their kids to bundle up. It's what they do.

You lose 90 percent of your body heat through your head.

Of all your body parts, your head is more likely to be exposed in cold weather. But that doesn't mean the myth about losing 90 percent of your body heat through your head is true, according to Business Insider. Sure, wearing a hat in cold weather will help you stay warm, but that's just because you're covering an exposed body part, not because there's anything special about your head. You could cover up any other exposed body part and also feel warmer.

You don't need sunscreen in the winter.

If you think you only need sunscreen in hotter weather, you've probably packed your lotion away by the time winter comes around. But even when the weather's overcast in the winter, up to 80 percent of the sun's rays can still penetrate the clouds, according to Reader's digest.

UVA rays are always present - even in winter - and they can damage the deeper layers of your skin, increasing your risk for skin cancer and causing premature aging of your skin. And if you're planning a ski trip, you should be even more careful. UV radiation increases with elevation, and snow reflects and intensifies sunlight. So whatever the season, wearing sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF is the safest way to go.

Feed a cold, starve a fever.

The origin of this myth may be rooted in antiquated beliefs about colds and fevers, according to CNN. It was once believed that your body literally became colder if you had a cold, so it needed to be "warmed up" with food. Fever was thought to need "cooling down" by not eating.

In reality, you need to eat whether you have a cold or a fever. Good, nutritious foods are important, but it's OK if your illness suppresses your appetite a little. Staying hydrated is most important, especially if you have a fever. You may need to replenish electrolytes, so sports drinks can be a good choice. Good ol' chicken soup will keep you hydrated while also helping to clear your nasal passages.

RELATED: Your guide to an (almost) allergy-free home

The flu shot can give you the flu.

This isn't true, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). Flu shots are made with either an inactive form of the virus or no flu virus at all. Neither type can give you the flu. You may have a sore arm after getting a flu shot and some people report having a low-grade fever and aches for a day or two, but it's not the flu.

On the other hand, you may still get the flu even if you've had a flu shot, but the odds of getting it are much lower and, if you do get the flu, the symptoms will likely be less severe.

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