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

Trending - Most Read Stories

5 centenarians share strange secrets to longevity

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018 @ 2:45 PM

What is the secret to longevity? This question taunts all of humanity. 

Although we have yet to discover a fountain of youth, centenarians – individuals who live to be over 100-years-old – can potentially give us clues on to how to live longer, healthier and happier lives. By taking a closer look at their lifestyles, genetics and social dynamics, some scientists are trying to find patterns that can show us their secrets.

»RELATED: Alcohol better than exercise to live past 90, study says 

At the same time, if you ask the centenarians themselves, they often give answers ranging from the seemingly logical to the downright bizarre.

Here are five unusual things centenarians have given credit for their long lives.

(JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Sumo wrestling and hot springs

Just this week, Guinness World Records crowned Masazo Nonaka as the world's oldest living man. At 112, the elderly Japanese man was born all the way back in 1905. That means he would have turned nine the year that World War I began.

Although he moves around in a wheelchair, Nonaka reads the newspaper every morning and feeds himself breakfast. As to the secret to his long life? Well, the centenarian soaks regularly in northern Japan's hot springs and considers watching sumo wrestling to be one of his favorite pastimes.

»RELATED: Here’s why women outlive men even in the harshest conditions, study says

2. Humor and chocolate

Jeanne Louise Calment of France still holds the Guinness record as the world's oldest living person. She died at the impressive age of 122 years and 164 days in 1997. Having definitely lived a full life, Calment sold painting canvasses to Vincent Van Gogh, smoked from the age of 21 to 117 and even became a recording artist at 120-years-old.

Calment accredited her longevity to her sense of humor. When she turned 120, journalists asked her what kind of future she expected. She replied quickly: "A very short one." Also an avid lover of chocolate, Calment reportedly consumed about 1 kilogram (2 pounds 3 ounces) of the stuff each week.

3. Eating less

Currently holding the record as the man to live the longest, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan lived to be 116 years and 54 days. He died in June of 2013. 

Born in 1897, Kimura worked at the post office until he retired at the age of 65. He then went on to live more than another half a century.

And what was his secret? According to him, eating less was the key. He reportedly said that his personal motto was: "eat light to live long". Notably, Kimura's philosophy has increasing support among the scientific community. 

Many scientists and nutritionists believe that a 30 percent reduction in daily calorie intake may significantly slow down the physical processes that make cells heal slower, which opens up the brain and body to disease. Studies have also shown that calorie restrictive diets in mice help combat the effects of aging on the brain.

If the scientists – and Kimura – are right, cutting down on your daily consumption can help you shed a few pounds while also keeping you young.

4. Eat everything ... except pork and chicken

In July of last year, Violet Moss-Brown of Jamaica became the oldest living woman and the oldest living person. She claimed both titles at the age 117 years and 139 days old. A few months later, she died, proud to know that she had claimed both world records.

When asked about her secrets to long life, Moss-Brown suggested there wasn't much to it. However, she did say she never ate pork or chicken. 

"When people ask what I eat and drink to live so long, I say to them that I eat everything, except pork and chicken," she told Guinness

»RELATED: Women happier after age 85 once spouse dies, psychiatrists say

5. Smoking cigarettes

Batuli Lamichhane, who was reportedly 112 in 2016, claimed that her secret to long life was smoking cigarettes.

Born in March 1903, Lamichhane started smoking when she was 17. The centenarian told The Mirror that she smoked some 30 cigarettes a day for the past 95 years.

"I have been smoking for over 95 years. There is nothing wrong with smoking," she said.

But before you rush out to buy a pack of cigarettes, remember that any doctor or scientist will explain to you that smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and a range of other health issues.

Related

Trending - Most Read Stories

Death of loved one during pregnancy may affect child's mental health, study says

Published: Sunday, April 08, 2018 @ 6:32 AM

10 Signs of Depression

Grieving the death of a loved one can affect an entire family, including babies. In fact, losing a relative during pregnancy may affect the mental health of a child later in life, according to a new report.

>> On AJC.com: Smoking while pregnant study: 1 in 14 women still smoke while pregnant

Researchers from Stanford University recently conducted a study, published in the American Economic Review, to determine the effect a family member’s death may have on children.

To do so, they examined Swedish infants born between 1973 and 2011 whose mother lost a close relative, such as a sibling, parent, maternal grandparent, the child’s father or her own older child, during her pregnancy.

>> Breast cancer patients may help boost survival chances by building muscle, study says

They followed those children through adulthood, comparing their health outcomes to kids whose maternal relatives died in the year after their birth. They gathered the data from their medical records and Sweden’s novel prescription drug registry, which contains all prescription drug purchases.

Lastly, they considered the impact the death may have had on the fetus, including fetal exposure to maternal stress from bereavement and even changes to family resources or household composition.

>> On AJC.com: Is light drinking while pregnant really dangerous?

After analyzing their results, they found that “that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood,” the researchers wrote in a statement.

Furthermore, they discovered the death of a relative up to three generations apart during pregnancy can also create consequences. 

“Our study offers complementary evidence linking early-life circumstance to adult mental health, but breaks new ground by focusing on stress,” the authors wrote, “which may be more pertinent than malnutrition in modern developed countries such as the United States and Sweden, and by tracing health outcomes throughout the time period between the fetal shock and adulthood.”

>> Read more trending news 

To combat the issue, the researchers recommend that governments implement policies to help reduce stress during pregnancy. They believe such policies should especially target poor families as they are more likely to experience stress than more advantaged ones. 

Although their findings are concerning, they hope they can better help expecting mothers have healthier pregnancies and birth healthier children. 

“Of course, you cannot prevent family members from dying, and we certainly do not want our findings to constitute yet another source of stress for expecting mothers,” the scientists said. “But our findings potentially point to the importance of generally reducing stress during pregnancy, for example through prenatal paid maternity leave and programs that provide resources and social support to poor, pregnant women.”

Trending - Most Read Stories

Breast cancer patients may help boost survival chances by building muscle, study says

Published: Sunday, April 08, 2018 @ 5:51 AM

What You Need to Know: Breast Cancer

Chemotherapy and radiation are common treatments for breast cancer. However, building muscle may also help boost chances of survival, according to a new report. 

>> On AJC.com: Breast cancer treatment may trigger heart problems, study says

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente recently conducted a study, published in JAMA Oncology, to determine the association between muscle quality and the disease. 

To do so, they examined 3,241 women from Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The participants were diagnosed with stages II or III breast cancer between January 2000 and December 2013. Scientists then used CT scans to observe muscle tissues.

>> Read more trending news 

After analyzing the results, they found that higher muscle mass upped survival rates, while lower muscle mass was linked with a higher risk of death.

In fact, more than one-third of the individuals with sarcopenia, a condition that causes muscle loss, “had a significantly increased risk of death compared with patients without sarcopenia,” the authors wrote in the study.

>> On AJC.com: Study: Fat linked to breast cancer even if you have healthy weight

Furthermore, building muscle may also help with other cancers.

“Our findings are likely generalizable across many other nonmetastatic cancers because the associations with muscle and improved survival for those with metastatic cancer has been observed across a variety of solid tumors,” they said.

While the scientists did not thoroughly explore why low muscle mass is connected to low breast cancer survival rates, they think inflammation may be a factor as cancer-related inflammation can decrease muscle mass and increase fat.

The researchers now hope to continue their investigations and believe their findings will lead to better treatment practices.

“We should also consider interventions to improve muscle mass, such as resistance training or protein supplementation,” they said. “In the era of precision medicine, the direct measurement of muscle and adiposity will help to guide treatment plans and interventions to optimize survival outcomes.” 

Trending - Most Read Stories

What is the DASH diet? Heart-healthy diet may also reduce risk of depression

Published: Monday, February 26, 2018 @ 11:32 AM

A grocer arranges mangoes in the produce section at Whole Foods January 13, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
A grocer arranges mangoes in the produce section at Whole Foods January 13, 2005 in New York City. (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)(Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

People who eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains may experience lower rates of depression over time.

>> Read more trending news

That’s according to new preliminary research published Sunday in the journal American Academy of Neurology, for which scientists examined 964 participants with an average age of 81 for symptoms of depression.

Participants in the study were monitored for symptoms and asked to fill out questionnaires about their eating habits, including how their habits lined up with the traditional Western diet, Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet.

>> On AJC.com: 5 signs you should ask your doctor about depression

The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a plan developed to lower blood pressure without medication. The research involved in its development was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

According to dashdiet.org, the lifestyle meal plan is rich in fruits, vegetables, low fat or nonfat dairy, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts and beans.

>> Related: People with depression are more likely to use certain words — here’s how they express themselves

With a high concentration of key nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and calcium, the diet has been shown to help lower blood pressure, as well as lower the risk of heart disease, bad cholesterol, heart failure, body weight, diabetes, kidney stones and some kinds of cancer.

Now, researchers say the diet can help reduce risk of depression.

"Depression is common in older adults and more frequent in people with memory problems, vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or people who have had a stroke," study author Laurel Cherian said in a news release. "Making a lifestyle change such as changing your diet is often preferred over taking medications, so we wanted to see if diet could be an effective way to reduce the risk of depression." 

>> On AJC.com: What you need to know before starting the keto diet

The participants involved in the study were divided into three groups based on how closely they adhered to the three types of diets. Researchers found those in the two groups that followed the DASH diet most closely were less likely to develop depression than people in the group that did not follow the diet closely.

The people who adhered to the DASH diet most closely were 11 percent less likely to become depressed over time compared to the lowest group, the study found. 

On the other hand, the participants who closely followed a Western diet, which is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables, were more likely to develop depression. 

>> Related: Why more US teens are suffering from severe anxiety than ever before — and how parents can help

But Cherian noted that the research shows only an association and does not prove that DASH diets lead to a reduced risk of depression.

"Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and to determine the best nutritional components of the DASH diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy," Cherian said.

>> On AJC.com: Want to try the Mediterranean diet? Study finds it works only for rich people

Cherian and her team will present the research at the American Academy of Neurology's 70th annual meeting in Los Angeles in April.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Additionally, approximately 800,000 people die of suicide each year — that’s one person every 40 seconds. From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate in the U.S. rose by 24 percent. Furthermore, according to recent data released Thursday by Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled from 2007 to 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

6 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Health

Trending - Most Read Stories