Some OTC Pain Meds Linked to Heart Disease

Most of us pop an OTC pain reliever from time to time for a rough headache, cramps, or sore muscles—and think nothing of it. But regularly taking high doses of NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can pose serious health risks, according to a recent large international study published in the journal The Lancet.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 600 trials. They found that people who take high, daily doses of NSAIDs—such as ibuprofen (like Motrin and Advil)—have a higher chance of heart attack or death from heart disease. The only NSAID that didn’t seem to increase patients’ heart-related health risks were naproxens (like Aleve). However, naproxens and the other NSAIDs were associated with an increased risk of upper gastrointestinal complications, such as bleeding from ulcers.

Many of the people who take these very high doses on a daily basis are treating rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, says Marie R. Griffin, MD, MPH, a professor of preventive medicine and medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who wrote a commentary on the study, which was also published in The Lancet. If you take a standard dose of ibuprofen once or twice a month during your period or the day after a crazy-challenging cycling class, you should be fine: For young, healthy people, taking an OTC NSAID as recommended on the bottle for a short period of time is probably safe, she says.

If, however, you find you’re taking them on the regular, you should talk to your doctor about whether this is a good idea—or you’d be better off treating your pain in some other way. “They’re really adjuncts for pain, and most people don’t need to be on these drugs every day,” says Griffin.


photo: BW Folsom/Shutterstock

More from Women’s Health:
9 Natural Pain Relievers
Medical Myth Busters: Popping Pills
Relieve Pain: Does Acupuncture Work?

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Breaking: SOME Morning After Pills Will Be OTC

The battle over where Plan B belongs in the drugstore continues: First, an April judicial ruling required the FDA to make emergency contraceptives available over the counter without any point-of-sale or age restrictions. Then, the Department of Justice later appealed the decision, asking for a temporary suspension of the case. The latest update: Earlier today, The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FDA must provide unrestricted over-the-counter access to some forms of emergency contraception, but not others, according to a recent press release from the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

The new ruling says that the FDA does not need to provide OTC access to one-pill versions of emergency contraception (like Plan B One-Step); however, they do need to make two-pill versions available OTC immediately, without any age or point-of-sale restrictions. Essentially, it enforces the original order to put the morning after pill on store shelves, but only as it applies to the two-pill methods. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the FDA will now have 14 days to appeal this ruling, or they could comply and start working on getting two-pill doses (like the generic Levonorgestral tablets, 0.75mg) moved out from behind the pharmacy counter.

So why are they allowing the two-pill dose to hit shelves instead of the much more widely available one-pill version? It isn’t entirely clear. “I think it’s based on legal and procedural issues, not with what has been shown to be a safe and effective product—both in one pill and two pill versions,” says Susannah Baruch, interim president and CEO of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

While it might seem confusing that some forms of emergency contraception will be on store shelves while others will be behind the counter (and still others will require a prescription!), it’s important to note that all options are safe and effective forms of backup birth control, says Baruch. And this new ruling will mean that you can get the morning after pill whenever you need it—albeit in a slightly less convenient two-pill formula.

“This is a good day,” says Baruch.” We’re happy with the decision and eager to see what happens next. The path to full access to emergency contraception is open and we’re headed down that path.”

photo: WaveBreak Media/Thinkstock

More From Women’s Health:
The Morning After Pill May Soon Be OTC
The FDA Approves Plan B One Step
DOJ Appeals Emergency Contraception Ruling

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Komen Cancels Some of Its 3-Day Walks

After a year filled with controversy, breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure is cancelling seven of its 14 previously scheduled 3-Day races in 2014, according to a recent announcement on the brand’s Facebook page.

Since the first 3-Day in 2003, the organization has held the 60-mile charity walks in several different cities throughout the country. The money raised by the event series goes to breast cancer education, research, screening, treatment, and more, according to company data from 2012.

While there will still be events in Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle and the Twin Cities in 2014, Komen is putting the kibosh on next year’s 3-Day walks in Phoenix, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Previous walks in the nixed locations didn’t attract enough participants or raise as much money as those in the remaining cities, says Susan G. Komen spokesperson Andrea Rader.

In fact, total participation in the 3-Day walks has dropped by 37 percent in the past four years, says Rader. “Economic uncertainty over the past four years has presented challenges for all nonprofits and has affected participation levels for the 3-Day as well,” Rader said in an email. “Many participants have reported that enthusiasm for the series remains very high, but it is more difficult for people to donate at levels they had in the past.”

While the 3-Day fundraising goal is a bit daunting—walkers need to raise at least $ 2,300 to participate—there could also be other factors at play. Ryan Lamppa, the media director at Running USA, a running industry not-for-profit, says Susan G. Komen events like Race for the Cure and 3-Day seriously suffered when the organization decided to stop providing funds to Planned Parenthood in 2012—even though the decision was later reversed. “It’s very difficult to win back that lost goodwill and support,” says Lamppa.

Although there will be seven fewer 3-Day walks next year, there are still plenty of ways to join the battle against breast cancer now. Here’s how:

Register for a 2013 Susan G. Komen 3-Day walk, Then mark your calendar for Monday, July 29, when registration opens for the seven remaining 2014 3-Day walks.

Find another local Susan G. Komen event (like Race for the Cure).

Get the online tools you need to host a ticketed event like a concert or a bake sale to support the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Donate frequent flyer miles, Ebay profits, or an old car to the American Cancer Society.

Shop for the cause by buying an item for which some of the proceeds go to breast cancer research.

photo: Hemera/Thinkstock

More from WH:
Take the Touch Yourself Challenge
Inspiring Stories from Breast Cancer Survivors
7 Ways to Keep Your Breasts Healthy

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Some Birth Control Linked to Pain During Sex

Birth control pills come with a whole lot of perks. But, as with any medication, women on the pill may also experience some side effects, including this potential one: Low-dose birth control pills may put you at higher risk for both chronic pelvic pain syndrome and pain during sex, according to new research presented last week at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting.

Lead author Nirit Rosenblum, MD, an assistant professor in the urology department at New York University Langone Medical Center, noticed a number of young women coming into her practice over the years who complained of varying pelvic pain symptoms—vaginal pain, pain in the lower part of the abdomen, “anything sort of below the belly button,” says Rosenblum. The common thread with these patients: Many of them were on low-dose birth control pills.

So Rosenblum and her colleagues set up an anonymous survey of more than 900 women ages 18 to 39 to investigate. The women on the low-dose pills were significantly more likely to fit the criteria for chronic pelvic pain syndrome than the women who weren’t on birth control pills or even those who were on normal-dose pills. And they were also much more likely to report pain during or after orgasm than either of the other two groups.

This survey only showed a link between the low-dose pills and pelvic pain, not causation. But if the low-dose pills are behind the pain, Rosenblum says it might be because of a dose-dependent mechanism: Women on low-dose pills have especially low levels of estrogen (women on normal-dose pills also have lower estrogen levels than those not on the Pill, but not quite as low as women on low-dose pills), so those low estrogen levels might somehow be coming into play here. The bottom line: More research needs to be done to understand why this higher incidence of pelvic pain may be happening, says Rosenblum.

If you’re currently on a low-dose pill and experiencing these symptoms, Rosenblum says the first thing you need to do is talk to your doctor, who will work with you to rule out other explanations for the discomfort. If the signs are pointing toward your pill, alternative options include going off of it, trying a higher-dose pill, or switching to a different birth control method.

Rosenblum says she doesn’t think these pelvic pain symptoms are dangerous, but that it’s important for patients to be aware of the link. “When you’re given any medication, you have to understand the potential side effects so that you can be a self advocate,” says Rosenblum. “You have to decide if the benefit of taking the medication is worth either the risk involved or the potential side effects, which may not be risky, but can affect quality of life.”


photo: Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Need-to-Know Birth Control Info
The FDA Approves OTC Plan B One-Step
Great News About IUDs

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If You Need an Excuse to Have Some Wine…

Whether you have a habit of blasting Beyonce through your headphones or you spent too many nights at noisy clubs in your teens, this health news will be music to your (slightly damaged) ears: Resveratrol (an extract found in red wine) can reduce noise-related hearing loss by about 50 percent, according to a new study in the journal Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

In an animal study, researchers gave rats either a placebo or various amounts of resveratrol (43 micrograms, 430 micrograms, or 4300 micrograms) and then exposed them to noise for 24 hours. Though the placebo group and the group with the least amount of resveratrol fared about the same, researchers saw that the other two groups had a significant reduction in noise-induced hearing loss. In fact, it lessened hearing loss by about half!

So will guzzling a few glasses of wine before heading out to a super-loud concert make your ears invincible? Not exactly. The research showed that resveratrol reduced free radicals and bioinflammation (a precursor to many health issues, including hearing loss), which creates a protective effect against the noise, says lead study author Michael Seidman, MD, director of the Division of Otologic/Neurotologic Surgery at the Henry Ford Hospital. Unfortunately, you’d need to drink a lot of wine to see immediate and major protection, says Seidman, and at that point the negative impact (like, say, getting drunk and making yourself sick) outweighs any potential benefits. That being said, a glass or two of red will add a tiny bit of protection in the short-term that a few cups of beer can’t provide. Regardless, be sure to pack a pair of earplugs if you’re heading to a loud concert, since hearing loss is permanent—no matter how much wine you drink.

Something else to consider: Even if you’re not a fan of noise, amping up your resveratrol intake will give you a ton of additional long-term health benefits. Not only will it help keep your hearing intact, but it also limits bioinflammation, which is responsible for Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart attacks, and other health issues.

In addition to drinking more merlot—guilt free—you can also boost your intake of resveratrol with foods like peanuts, grapes, and blueberries. But if you’re sold on the idea of toasting to good hearing, get more wine inspiration, here:

Wine Tips From the Experts

Best Boxed Wines

Wine Tips to Know

Wine Terms to Know

What Wine Experts Drink: The 6 Best Summer Wines

photo: iStockPhoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
Drinking Alcohol to Shrink?
6 Steps to Avoid a Hangover
Cheap Wine Choices


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