Just Another Headache?

07/13/2010


from HealthyWomen’s e-newsletter, HealthyWomen Take 10

When the dull pressure of an occasional headache begins, you might chalk it up to work stress, lack of sleep or personal worries. If the ache is mild or moderate, you may consider it no big deal and simply reach for an over-the-counter drug—aspirin, acetaminophen , ibuprofen or naproxen sodium—instead of calling your health care professional.

Simple tension-type headaches are common, happening to 78 percent of adults, according to the National Headache Foundation. Such aches are dull (not stabbing or pulsating), may contract the muscles in the scalp or neck and generally occur on both sides of the head, without nausea or sensitivity to light and noise.

Yet occasional or episodic headaches may increase in frequency over time. Are you taking headache medication nearly every day, but feeling little relief? Does the aching often start when you wake up or in the evening? Are you having sleep problems?

If that describes you on 15 or more days a month, you have chronic tension-type headache. And you might also be suffering from unrecognized depression .

Although people with chronic tension-type headache often get through their daily activities, studies show they have significantly higher levels of depression , which affects overall functioning and quality of life. That depression might not be displayed as sadness or other classic signs of a depressive disorder, so the problem underlying the headaches may be missed by health care professionals and even patients themselves. What’s more, chronic pain itself can lead to depression .

If you suffer from chronic headaches, get help now to end the pain:

  • Anyone taking headache medication more than two days a week needs to be examined by a medical professional. See your primary care provider or a specialist at a headache clinic (often affiliated with hospitals).
  • Even if you are not depressed, antidepressants are often prescribed for chronic tension-type headache. These drugs provide more pain relief than standard over-the-counter medications.
  • Biofeedback has also been shown to be helpful in ending chronic headache.

For more information on chronic pain, visit: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/chronic-pain

For more information on mental health, visit: www.healthywomen.org/healthcenter/mental-health

For more information on managing stress, visit: www.healthywomen.org/ages-and-stages/healthy-living/managing-stress

© 2010 HealthyWomen All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from HealthyWomen. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.HealthyWomen.org.

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Bedtime Aspirin May Help Lower Blood Pressure

09/03/2009

This is an interesting initial evaluation of the effects of a daily low dose aspirin taken just before bedtime.  Patients were randomized to receive aspirin at different times during the day.  All of the patients had pre-hypertension, these are people with borderline high blood pressure readings not yet receiving blood pressure medications.  Blood pressure measurements were evaluated with a 48 hour ambulatory blood pressure monitor, prior to starting daily aspirin usage and then 3 months after starting daily aspirin usage.  Blood pressure measurements did not change in patients taking aspirin in the morning upon awakening.  Seventy-one percent of the patients who took aspirin at bedtime experienced a reduction in their blood pressure readings.  No changes in heart rate were observed in any of the patient groups over time.  The researchers believe the aspirin when given at night may be decreasing the nocturnal renin peak and enhancing the production of nitric oxide.  Both of these substances could facilitate blood pressure lowering.

This was a small study and a larger multicenter trial is being developed.  But the take away message is – if you are taking a daily aspirin and have high blood pressure/hypertension or borderline high blood pressure readings it may be more beneficial to take the aspirin dose at bedtime.  Definitely something to discuss with your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

For more heart healthy info visit www.heart-strong.com


Over-the-Counter Meds to Avoid With Hypertension

08/30/2009

Over-the-Counter Meds to Avoid With Hypertension
from the Heart Health Center

Q: I’m finding that so many over-the-counter medications warn against taking them if you have high blood pressure. Can you tell me why and what medications I should avoid?

A: It’s funny, isn’t it? We often assume that just because a medication is available without a prescription that it must somehow be safer than prescription medications. But the reality is that all drugs can have harmful side effects. Even aspirin can increase the risk of stomach bleeding, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can contribute to liver damage.

Thus, the decision to use a specific medication should always depend on a complete understanding of its potential risks and benefits.

You are correct. Several over-the-counter (OTC) medications can contribute to high blood pressure. Others could interact with your high blood pressure medication, making it less effective. The OTC medications to watch out for include:

Pain relievers. Non-aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Motrin) and naproxen (Alleve) can increase blood pressure even if you’re already taking an anti-hypertensive medication. They appear to constrict blood vessels and increase the amount of sodium your body holds onto, both of which can cause high blood pressure. Chronic use of high-dose NSAIDs also causes kidney damage, which raises blood pressure.

Oral contraceptives. Birth control pills that contain estrogen can cause high blood pressure in about 5 percent of women who take them. That’s why women with a history of high blood pressure or other risk factors for high blood pressure such as smoking are usually warned not to take estrogen-based contraceptives. Progestin-only pills are a contraceptive option for women with high blood pressure.

© 2009 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.healthywomen.org.

Antihistamines and decongestants. Products containing either of these ingredients (think Benadryl and Sudafed) can increase blood pressure and interact with your blood pressure medications. Check labels of allergy, flu and cold preparations, most of which contain one or both.

Weight-loss preparation. Many of these products contain antihistamines and other substances like caffeine that can increase blood pressure. Instead of taking pills to lose weight, talk to your health care professional about lifestyle changes you can make.

Caffeine. Caffeine, which can increase blood pressure, is found in a surprising number of OTC remedies, including some aspirin formulations.

Herbal remedies. Herbal remedies that contain ephedra, found in some weight-loss supplements, can be dangerous in those with high blood pressure. Also avoid taking gingko, an herbal remedy sometimes used for memory problems, if you are also taking a thiazide diuretic. St. John’s Wort can interact with high blood pressure medications.

If you have high blood pressure, talk with your health care professional about which OTC medications and herbal remedies are safe for occasional use. Also make a point of reading the ingredient lists on OTC remedies and the inserts that come with all products.

 

© 2009 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (tollfree). On the Web at: www.healthywomen.org.


Can an Aspirin a Day Keep the Cardiologist Away?

03/20/2009

 We have all heard the slogan “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. Well what about can “An aspirin a day keep the cardiologist away?”

Aspirin is one of the most common medications taken by adults in the United States. But what is the correct dose to take to prevent a heart attack?  This has been a debate for many years.

 A recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine (March 2009) found that 81 milligrams (one baby aspirin) was as effective as the higher dose aspirin at preventing a heart attack and also caused less bleeding complications.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also released new guidelines (published in the Annals of Internal Medicine March 2009) about aspirin recommendations for people who have NEVER HAD a Heart Attack or Stroke.

Men aged 45 to 79 with risk factors for a heart attack should take aspirin every day to prevent a heart attack as long as their risk of bleeding is low

Women aged 55 to 79 with risk factors for an ischemic stroke should take aspirin every day to prevent a stroke as long as there risk of bleeding is low

Men under 45 and women under 55 who have never had a heart attack or stroke should not take aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke.

 No clear recommendations for men or women over 80 (discuss individually with your health care provider).

 Aspirin appears to prevent heart attacks better in men than women, and prevent ischemic strokes better in women than men.

For more heart healthy info visit http://www.heart-strong.com