Q: If over-the-counter pain relievers are now a heart risk, what can I take?
Kathy G., Springfield, Mass.
A: You must be referring to the new warning issued by the Food and Drug Administration that says over-the-counter and prescription NSAIDs (that’s nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) “increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke, either of which can lead to death. Those serious side effects can occur as early as the first few weeks of using an NSAID, and the risk might rise the longer people take NSAIDs.”
They’re talking about pain relievers such as ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac and celecoxib. Those are the go-to drugs for arthritis pain, headaches, sore muscles and menstrual cramps. And the FDA says that the danger applies to the heart-unhealthy and heart-healthy alike.
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An earlier study found that taking some NSAIDs increases the risk for heart-related events by 33 percent.
Who should avoid them? People who have cardiovascular disease — particularly those who recently had a heart attack or cardiac bypass surgery — are at the greatest risk for another heart attack or dying of heart-attack-related causes if they take NSAIDs.
Take the lowest effective dose for the shortest amount of time possible, advises the Cleveland Clinic’s chairman of cardiovascular medicine Steve Nissen, M.D.
Aspirin is an NSAID, but it’s not included in this warning. We recommend talking to your doctor about taking 162 mg every day.Daily low-dose aspirin helps prevent cardiovascular woes and wards off certain cancers. It also can ease aches and pains. But it can cause GI bleeding and interfere with anticoagulant medications.
Q: Our family is planning a beach vacation for the end of the summer, and I’m hearing reports about shark attacks and flesh-eating bacteria. Should I make other plans? -- Jeffrey W., Nashville, Tennessee
A: Sometimes it seems like our 24/7 news cycle is designed to frighten you -- so you’ll stay indoors watching the 24/7 news cycle! While scary reports about shark attacks and flesh-eating bacteria make for good ratings, they obscure the facts.
Every year there are 30-40 shark attacks in the U.S.; 90 percent are bite-and-run. As of July 1 this year, there were 23 reported run-ins, some very serious, and that’s more than usual for that date. One expert explained that the flurry of incidents along the coast from North Carolina to Florida happened because there was a “perfect storm”: coastal waters were warmer than usual, unusually large numbers of people went to the beach and at the same time, it was sea turtle nesting season. Sharks love those turtles. The combo meant more shark-human interaction than usual. That confluence of events shouldn’t be happening when you are headed to the beach.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at firstname.lastname@example.org.