Health & Lifestyle Options that May Improve Your Life

Fall 2000 CSANews Issue 37  |  Posted date : Mar 07, 2007.Back to list

We hope you enjoy our special feature Health Pulse a special section supported and researched by some of Canada's leading pharmaceutical manufacturers. Take the time to read and to learn more about the prevention and management of heart disease, stomach disorders and osteoarthritis.

When Your Heart's Burning... and It's Not from Yearning.

How Do You Deal With Heartburn?
Heartburn affects different people in different ways. That painful burn can be brought on by spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, fruit juices, chocolate, or even stress.

So how do you deal with it? Avoid the foods you love? Suffer? Take antacids? Or, have you tried the new class of heartburn drugs called acid controllers?

Let's take a look at what causes heartburn, and your choices for dealing with it.

What Causes Heartburn?
Heartburn symptoms can occur when acid moves up from the stomach and into the food pipe (called the esophagus). It's normal for the stomach to produce acid, but sometimes too much acid is produced. Some foods, beverages and activities can stimulate the production of stomach acid and weaken the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus.

The result is that burning feeling of heartburn.

Besides the obvious pain and discomfort, heartburn can be disruptive to everyday activities. Whether you're enjoying an afternoon with the family, or just trying to get a good night's sleep, heartburn can come between you and the more important things in your life.

What Can You Do?
The best way to deal with heartburn is to make lifestyle changes that can help you avoid the obvious triggers. The "How to Avoid Heartburn" section on this page provides some helpful advice.

But avoiding heartburn isn't always possible. You can't always predict what will trigger it. Some situations simply can't be avoided. And maybe you just don't want to resist the foods you love!

Antacids Relieve Heartburn
Traditionally, Canadians have treated heartburn with antacids. Antacids work by neutralizing existing stomach acid. Excess acid continues to be produced and, therefore, another dose of antacids may be required to neutralize the acid again and again. So, although antacids are effective, redosing may be necessary.

Acid Controllers Provide Fast, Long-lasting, Heartburn Relief
Acid controllers (also known as acid reducers) are a new class of heartburn treatment. They control the production of stomach acid for a longer period of time ­ up to 12 hours. Because they work differently than antacids, they offer you more choices.
  • Fast relief? When taken after heartburn symptoms start, an acid controller, such as PEPCID AC®, provides fast relief from the burning sensation.
  • Want to stop that heartburn all day or all night? If heartburn disrupts your day or night, an acid controller can provide the long-lasting acid control you need.
  • A special occasion? Acid controllers can also be taken before consuming the foods or beverages you know cause heartburn. On a special occasion, such as a Thanksgiving dinner, you can take PEPCID AC® before the food is served. This can help you avoid the heartburn altogether.
For answers to your questions about heartburn, acid indigestion, or lifestyle changes, call the PEPCID AC® Consumer Information Centre toll-free at:

1 800 4PEPCID (473-7243)
from 8:15 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. EST

Caution for All Medication Use
It is important to remember that if your heartburn doesn't go away, you may have a more serious problem. If you find you are using heartburn medications for more than two consecutive weeks, talk to your doctor. And always read the information included with any non-prescription medications before use.
HEALTH TIP: How to Avoid Heartburn

  • Slow down when eating, and don't overeat.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that cause heartburn ­ these can include hot and spicy foods, coffee, soft drinks and other beverages containing caffeine, citrus foods and juices, tomato products such as salsa, onions, chocolate and alcohol.
  • If you smoke, stop or try to cut back.
  • Watch your weight.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.
  • Don't lie down after meals.
  • Avoid late-night snacks.
  • Elevate the head of your bed.
  • Minimize stress in your life.
ASA and Your Heart: Is It Good for You?
Long used for the treatment of pain, fever and relief from arthritis, acetylsalicylic acid, or ASA (as found in Entrophen® or Aspirin®), is gaining in popularity as a way to protect against heart attack and certain kinds of stroke. But to achieve that heart-protective benefit, you need the right dose of ASA. This is why it's important to speak to your doctor first about the benefits of ASA for your heart.

Small Doses are Key
Small doses are key if ASA is being used to protect against heart attack.

At small doses--such as one Entrophen® 325-mg tablet every other day--ASA works not as a fever or pain reliever, but as an "anti-platelet" drug or "blood thinner." In people with diseased or damaged arteries, clots may form, cutting off the blood supply to vital organs such as the brain or heart. The first step in the clotting process is a clumping or aggregation of blood platelets.

If that clump becomes big enough, it blocks the blood flow to critical organs, resulting in such problems as a heart attack or the most common type of stroke known as "ischemic" stroke. In small doses, ASA makes platelets less sticky and, as a result, blood is less likely to clot and obstructions in arteries are less likely to occur.

Reduces Heart Attack Risk in Heart Disease
This is how every-other-day use of 325-mg ASA can reduce the risk of heart attack and other events which are preceded by blood clots. Research has shown that one 325-mg tablet of ASA taken every other day over time lowers the risk of occurrence of any blood clot-related event by approximately 25 per cent.

Giving people low-dose ASA at the first sign of a heart attack also improves chances of survival. In people with a history of heart attack, low-dose ASA is clearly beneficial.

Stomach Irritation Reduced
If your doctor has recommended ASA therapy for you, there are many products available at the pharmacy, but some may agree with you better than others. Although ASA has benefits, people can develop stomach complaints from regular use. A medication such as Entrophen® has a special coating which prevents the tablet from dissolving in the stomach. This reduces stomach upset or irritation, and many people find it easier to take than plain or even buffered ASA.

Treating Your Aches and Pains Too
If you are using ASA on a regular basis to protect against a heart attack or stroke, it is best to choose a different type of medication such as TYLENOL* acetaminophen, and not more ASA, to relieve headaches and pains. This is because taking extra ASA negates the effects of low-dose therapy ­ more is not better! Most doctors recommend TYLENOL* for most pain relief because it doesn't interact with ASA and it does not irritate the stomach. But don't forget ­ you need to see your doctor first before you start any regular ASA therapy.

A physician can tell you whether ASA is right for you and, if so, how much and even what type of ASA may be safest for you to take. If you need pain relief as well, remember the rule, "ASA for your heart, and TYLENOL* for your pain." Together, they can help take care of your aches and pains and protect your heart safely and effectively.

Take an Active Approach to Relieving Osteoarthritis Pain

Is there Anything I Can Do to Relieve My Osteoarthritis?
There's little that can be done medically to reverse the process of joint degeneration, but there are things you can do to relieve the pain and prevent it from getting worse. One of the best ways to prevent osteoarthritis pain from getting worse is moderate exercise. Not only does exercise preserve a joint's range of motion and strengthen surrounding muscles, the mobility and flexibility actually keeps the joint healthy.

Studies have shown that people who participate in individually designed exercise programs actually have less pain, use less medication and are more mobile. Low-impact activities such as stretching, swimming, water aerobics and walking can provide pain relief and keep muscles and other soft tissues flexible and strong. But it is important to have an exercise program designed by a professional to meet your specific needs.

The problem is, how do you exercise painful joints when it seems to make them hurt more? The answer is simple: Reduce the pain before you exercise (on the advice of your doctor).

What About Relieving My Pain?
There are a number of non-prescription medications for temporary relief of osteoarthritis pain, most specifically ASA, ibuprofen or acetaminophen . If you have OA, it's important to understand the differences between them.

Aren't All Pain Relievers the Same?
ASA and ibuprofen belong to a family of medications known as NSAIDs--non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. NSAIDs have been traditionally chosen to provide relief from osteoarthritis because they can control both pain and inflammation. However, OA is due mostly to joint degeneration, not inflammation. Most people with OA don't need an anti-inflammatory; they simply need pain relief.

That's good news, because prolonged use of NSAIDs--including ASA and ibuprofen--is associated with some side effects, including stomach and digestive tract upset, mild nausea and stomach bleeding.

Acetaminophen ­ the First Choice
Acetaminophen, the pain reliever found in TYLENOL*, is not classified as an NSAID. It is as effective for pain relief, with fewer side effects than non-prescription NSAIDs. Dr. John Burton, clinical director of geriatrics at Johns Hopkins, the prestigious American clinic and research centre, recently observed,

"As far as osteoarthritis is concerned, drug treatment should almost invariably start with acetaminophen, which will relieve pain and is least likely to cause side effects. Osteoarthritis treatment almost never requires NSAIDs."*

Acetaminophen can also be used safely with other prescription medications, whereas taking ASA or ibuprofen may further increase the risk of side effects. In addition, acetaminophen is recommended as a preferred pain reliever for people who have conditions such as asthma, anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, flu, gout and stomach irritation (ASA can aggravate an active ulcer, reactivate a dormant ulcer, or even cause a new ulcer in some people).

Why not ask your doctor or pharmacist about the advantages of taking acetaminophen (for example, TYLENOL*) versus NSAIDs . If you have questions about osteoarthritis, TYLENOL* or The Arthritis Society, call the McNeil toll-free Hotline at 1-800-265-7323 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. We'll send you a free pamphlet about osteoarthritis from The Arthritis Society.

My Doctor Says I Have Osteoarthritis. What Is It?
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting one in 10 people -- close to three million Canadians. Although it can develop at any age, it's seen more often in older people: 85 per cent of the population over the age of 70 is affected.

Symptoms start slowly, usually as pain or stiffness in and around the hips, knees or small bones of the fingers, but it can affect any joint in the body. In OA, cartilage--the tough, elastic gristle capping bone ends in a joint--is eroded. It isn't clear why, although heredity, excess weight or injuries may play a role. As the cartilage frays, the bone ends begin to grate, and bits of cartilage break off into the joint space, irritating surrounding soft tissue.

The result is pain and stiffness. As the joint is used less, surrounding muscles and other tissues weaken, the joint loses its normal shape and function--and every movement causes still more pain.