In The News: September 2010
Popular Pain Relievers May Increase Risk of Stroke, Heart Attack
Healthy people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief may be increasing their risk of heart attack and stroke. Researchers in Denmark studied 1,028,437 healthy individuals from 1997 to 2005 for increased cardiovascular morbidity with the use of prescription drugs rofecoxib (Vioxx), diclofenac (Cambia, Cataflam, Voltaren, Zipsor), celecoxib (Celebrex), and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol, Nuprin). [Rofecoxib, no longer available in the U.S., was taken off the market in 2004.] Researchers found that those on diclofenac had a 91 percent higher risk of heart attack and stroke; patients who took the largest doses of diclofenac actually saw their risk of heart attack double. Perhaps the most relevant finding was that ibuprofen showed a 29 percent higher risk of stroke; however, researchers found that the drug in low doses (1,200 mg or less per day) appeared to pose no cardiovascular risk. Naproxen not only showed no increased cardiovascular risk but actually appeared to lower the risk of heart disease. The use of celecoxib did not appear to raise heart-attack risk. Said the researchers, "It is widely accepted that naproxen is the NSAID with the safest cardiovascular risk profile, and our results support this assumption."
Acupuncture’s Molecular Effects Boost Treatment’s Impact
Acupuncture just got a little bit less "alternative." Researchers at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center have identified the molecule adenosine as a key player in parlaying the effects of acupuncture. Adenosine, a natural compound known for its role in regulating sleep and for its anti-inflammatory properties, also acts as a natural pain-killer. Researchers performed acupuncture on mice that had discomfort in one paw. After the mice had received a 30-minute treatment near the knee, the procedure reduced discomfort by two-thirds. Authors of the study say their findings show that acupuncture activates a number of different mechanisms, and that adenosine is a key player in the process.
Stick to an Exercise Routine—Save Yourself a Tumble
Nearly 19,000 Americans die each year from falls, and almost eight million undergo emergency-room treatment. Falls are also the leading cause of injuries among people 65 and older. How do you lower your risk of falling? Stay physically fit and stick to a regular exercise program, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. Eager to learn what people were doing when they fell, and whether fitness had a part in the likelihood of falling, researchers examined results from a study of 10,615 participants between the ages of 20 and 87. Of the participants, 2,110 (20 percent) reported falling, and of those who fell, 15 percent fell while walking. Women were 2.8 times as likely as men to fall while walking, but fitness levels made a difference in men falling while it did not for women. The study found men with low fitness levels were 2.2 times more likely to fall while walking than were highly fit men. Researchers concluded that individuals need two hours of regular exercise a week to lower their risk of falling.
Psychological Factors Predict Chronic Pain Following Orthopaedic Injury
Long-term pain can be predicted in individuals recovering from an orthopaedic injury. According to an Australian research team reporting in The Journal of Pain, psychological factors, such as pessimism about recovery and depression, are major predictors of chronic pain in such patients. Researchers, evaluating 168 patients with a range of non-life-threatening orthopaedic injuries, found that more than half of the patients reported persistent pain six months after their injuries. High initial pain intensity was a major factor predicting the development of chronic pain. Recovery expectations also played a role; those who believed they would not recover soon were four times more likely to report pain-related disability after six months. Authors of the study suggested that identifying psychological factors contributing to long-term pain can help to improve outcomes of those suffering a traumatic orthopaedic injury.