Statin side effects: How common are they?

Reported side effects of statins include muscle pain, diabetes, and memory problems. Most people do not experience any side effects and the drug may not be the cause. Going off the statin temporarily and then starting again, called a statin rechallenge, can confirm whether the drug is the cause of the problem. For confirmed muscle side effects, adjusting the dose can reverse them. A typical approach is to use a more potent statin, at a lower dose, and only several times per week. The chance of diabetes is relatively small and often occurs in people whose blood sugar is already elevated. The evidence for major problems with memory and mental function due to statin use is not clear. Once starting a statin, it is necessary to stay on it long-term to get the promised benefit of reducing risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart-related causes. (Locked) More »

Ask the doctor: Blood tests for Alzheimer's disease

Early-diagnosis tests for Alzheimer's disease are in the research stage but are not reliable. Genetic testing may be considered under certain circumstances, but without a good treatment for the disease, testing offers little medical benefit. (Locked) More »

"Joint support" supplements for arthritis

Many “joint support” dietary supplements and herbal remedies are available, but there is no strong proof that they reduce pain and cartilage loss from osteoarthritis. The most widely used products contain glucosamine and/or chondroitin sulfate, but well-done clinical trials have failed to document a benefit. Joint support supplements may also contain dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and S-adenosyl-L-methionine SAMe, as well as avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) or the herb Boswellia serrata. Such products are not evaluated as rigorously for safety, including reactions with other drugs, as are pharmaceuticals. In contrast, exercise can help reduce pain and maintain physical function. Fitness programs to build strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity seem to work best. More »

Tea: A cup of good health?

Tea contains substances that have been linked to better health. For example, tea, particularly green tea, is rich in substances called polyphenols. They have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that hypothetically could have health-promoting effects in the body. Large studies that observed groups of nurses and doctors over time show that tea drinkers are less likely to develop diabetes and may have a lower risk of heart disease, compared with people who drink less tea. Drinking tea is consistent with a healthy dietary pattern that lowers risk of disease. Drinking coffee has also been linked to health, although the research is not conclusive. More »

Influenza alert: When you need an antiviral boost

People older than 65 or with certain chronic health conditions are at higher risk of serious complications from an influenza infection. Lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, dementia, and liver or kidney disease make a person more likely to develop serious complications of flu, such as pneumonia. Current guidelines suggest people at high risk consider taking antiviral medications if they contract flu. The medications in use are oseltamivir (Tamiflu), taken as a pill, and zanamivir (Relenza), which is inhaled. The drugs are also FDA-approved to shorten the typical duration of the flu, but only by less than a day. It may not be worth the risk of drug side effects like nausea and vomiting. (Locked) More »

Choose a hearing aid that works for you

People with impaired hearing may be able to follow conversations fairly well, but with a lot of effort. Even if someone can still make do without a hearing aid, using one can make life a lot easier. High-tech miniaturized hearing aids are marketed aggressively. These devices try to adjust their volume to meet different conditions, but may fail to do so consistently. This leads to frustration as well as great expense, since high-tech hearing aids cost a lot more. A better option for some people may be a larger behind-the-ear model that supplies more volume and the ability to more easily control it. It is possible to purchase hearing aids without an audiologist serving as an intermediary. But audiologists offer more personalized service and can respond more quickly when adjustments and repairs are needed. (Locked) More »