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Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School
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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Use caution with all pain medications, reports the Harvard Heart Letter

Not long ago, choosing a pain reliever meant finding one that eased your pain without being too hard on the stomach. Now, research suggests that some commonly used pain medications — not just the now-banned Vioxx — can raise the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. New step-by-step recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) can help you choose a pain reliever that's good for both the heart and stomach, reports the June 2007 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

The AHA suggests starting with aspirin or acetaminophen (Tylenol) to quell muscle or joint pain. Aspirin is good for the heart, and acetaminophen doesn’t affect blood clotting. If they don't work, the next step for most people would be a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Try naproxen (Aleve) first, then ibuprofen (Advil). Next is diclofenac, but more caution is needed with this drug (which is available only by prescription). Celebrex, the only drug in the class known as COX-2 inhibitors that remains on the market, should be the last resort for managing pain. In addition to the side effect of increasing the risk of clots in the bloodstream, COX-2 inhibitors can also reduce blood flow through the kidneys and raise blood pressure. For short-term pain in some people, a narcotic pain reliever such as tramadol (Ultram), codeine, or fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic) may be an option.

The Harvard Heart Letter notes that you shouldn’t be afraid to take aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, or Aleve for occasional aches and pains. But if you need a pain reliever several times a week, pay closer attention to your choices and talk with your doctor.

Also in this issue of the Harvard Heart Letter

  • Yellow light on pain relievers
  • Reception still fuzzy for fast CT scans of the heart
  • COURAGE to make choices
  • Heart Beat: Big bend for blood pressure?
  • Heart Beat: High pulse pressure poses risk for atrial fibrillation
  • In Brief
  • Heart Beat: A heartfelt legacy from long-lived parents
  • Heart Beat: More evidence against trans fats
  • Follow-up
  • Ask the doctor: Can I stop taking my blood pressure medicine?
  • Ask the doctor: Should I take nitroglycerin during exercise?
  • A road map to life in the fat lane

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.