12 medications you should never mix with alcohol

Nearly half of all Americans have used at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, and 23 percent have used three or more. While a lot of attention is given to the opioid epidemic, there’s another legal drug that many prescription takers don’t think twice about: alcohol.

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12 medications you should never mix with alcohol
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12 medications you should never mix with alcohol

Painkillers

Mixing opioid-based painkillers with another depressant—alcohol—can be lethal, says White. Doubling up on depressants can suppress the brain stem activity responsible for basic functions like breathing and heart rate. A recent study suggests that even a relatively low dose of the prescription painkiller oxycodone and the equivalent of one alcoholic drink for women (two for men) in the span of an hour led to a 50 percent reduction in breathing compared to the painkiller alone. “Combining alcohol with any drug that makes you sleepy will increase your risk of harm,” White says.

Sleeping pills

A class of drugs known as benzodiazepines—Valium and Xanax, are among the most common—are prescribed to treat anxiety. They’re relatively safe—unless you add alcohol, warns White. Combining these two depressants can interfere with your central nervous system, and the results can be fatal. People with anxiety are sometimes prescribed these meds; anxiety can be triggered by any one of these health conditions.

Antidepressants

A class of drugs known as benzodiazepines—Valium and Xanax, are among the most common—are prescribed to treat anxiety. They’re relatively safe—unless you add alcohol, warns White. Combining these two depressants can interfere with your central nervous system, and the results can be fatal. People with anxiety are sometimes prescribed these meds; anxiety can be triggered by any one of these health conditions.

Allergy medicine

“Even over-the-counter substances that make you sleepy should be avoided if you’re drinking,” says White. Antihistamines like Benedryl can help ease allergy symptoms like cough, runny nose, and itchy eyes—but drowsiness is a major side effect, and alcohol will make it worse. You can taper your alcohol intake with these 17 tips.

Acetaminophen

Popping this over-the-counter painkiller (name brands include Tylenol) carries the risk of liver damage for chronic drinkers. Even the bottle labels include a warning to that effect, points out Sandy Walsh, a spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Here are 14 more medications that pain doctors avoid.

Cold medicine

The cough syrup or nasal decongestant that helps you power through a head cold often contains ingredients that interact poorly with alcohol, leading to drowsiness and dizziness. If you’re taking cold meds, avoid hot toddies and other alcoholic beverages.

NSAIDs 

The class of painkillers known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs includes such staples as aspirin and ibuprofen and stronger prescription drugs for treating conditions like arthritis. Combining any version with three or more alcoholic drinks a day can raise your risk of stomach bleeding, says Walsh. It could also harm your liver and kidneys.

Antibiotics

“Some antibiotics block the breakdown of alcohol,” says White. “So if your doctor prescribed something and you’re only going to be on it for a week or so, it’s best to just wait it out and abstain from alcohol for that time.” Here’s how to know when you really need antibiotics.

Blood pressure medication

More than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The good news is that medications can lower your blood pressure—but they don’t mix well with booze: Many high blood pressure drugs can cause sleepiness, fainting, and irregular heartbeat when mixed with alcohol.

High cholesterol medication

Roughly 43 million Americans are taking medication to help control their high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But if you mix cholesterol-lowering pills with regular drinking, you could end up with liver problems down the road, warns the NIAAA.

ADHD Medication

Even though these drugs tend to be stimulants, they contain ingredients that, combined with alcohol, can lead to dizziness, drowsiness, and increased risk for heart and liver problems, depending on the drug.

Prescription-strength antacids

Metoclopramide and other drugs used to treat heartburn and indigestion can increase the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol, enhancing its effects. A rapid heartbeat and sudden changes in blood pressure can be side effects of imbibing while taking these. Ask your doctor if one of these home remedies for acid reflux might work for you.

Play it safe

The NIAAA lists dozens more drugs and their potential interactions with alcohol. To avoid ending up in the ER, ask your doctor about any possible interactions associated with the prescriptions you take. If you do mix meds and alcohol, call your pharmacist, doctor, or poison control at the first sign of a problem, advises White.

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“The research tells us that the number of people who end up going to the emergency room each year for an alcohol and drug interaction has been going up,” says Aaron White, PhD, senior advisor to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). “It’s a growing problem. Alcohol is a very simple molecule with very diverse effects on physiology,” explains White. “There aren’t many things the body does that alcohol doesn’t impact.” Here are some notable drugs, and the dangers of mixing them with booze. Watch out for the 10 signs that you’re taking too many medications.

The post The 12 Medications You Should Never Mix with Alcohol appeared first on Reader's Digest.

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12 things your mother's health says about you
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12 things your mother's health says about you

Sketchy skeleton

Genetics play a big part in health conditions, so looking at your mom’s health can give you a clue what’s to come. This is especially true of complications that affect women more than men, like osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones. According to the CDC, osteoporosis affects 25 percent of women over 65, but only six percent of men—and recent research has found genetic variants predisposing some people to the disease. “There is strong evidence for an increased risk of osteoporosis if your mother had it,” says Todd Sontag, DO, a family medicine specialist with Orlando Health Physician Associates. “Many times this has to do with an inherited body structure of having lower body weight—less than 58kg [128 pounds] in adults or a BMI of less than 22.” Another risk factor is simply having a parental history (mom or dad) of hip fracture, he says. To mitigate these affects, make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D, and are living a healthy lifestyle. Here are the signs you’re not as healthy as you think.

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Crepey skin

Wonder if you’re going to get wrinkles or skin damage? Take a look at your mom’s face. Research has shown that male and female skin ages differently due to different hormones. “Your mother’s ability to break down collagen and the age when it started breaking down—the age when she got wrinkles—are passed down to you, as well as the pattern of collagen breakdown: Did she get wrinkles around her eyes first, or deeper lines around her mouth?” says dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD, creator of Visha Skin Care. “Looking at pictures of her as she ages helps you understand how to combat your aging process.” Daily sunscreen and an anti-aging serum with retinol, vitamin C, ferulic acid, and vitamin E work to fight these genetic effects, she says. In addition, your skin type, passed down from your mother and your father, can affect your chances of sun damage and skin cancer. Those with fairer skin are most at risk. This is what dermatologists wish you knew about preventing wrinkles.

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Mental health

If you’re aware of what psychologists wish you knew about depression, you might already know that depression is diagnosed twice as often in women as in men, possibly as a result of hormonal fluctuations and women’s response to trauma and stress. “Another important aspect in gender studies shows that women have a more chronic course of depression than do men,” says psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Living With Depression. “This means that females experience depression more often and for a longer duration of time than males.” Plus, it’s genetically linked, with Harvard Medical School experts noting that certain genetic mutations associated with depression occur only in women. So if your mother had depression, you should be on the lookout for symptoms, and get treatment if needed. “This is why knowing your family medical history is so important to become proactive about your own personal health,” Dr. Serani says. Here are the signs you’re healthy from every type of doctor.

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Eye issues

Women are more likely to have the eye condition glaucoma, and are also more likely to be visually impaired or blind from it, says the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Thanks to menopause, women are also more likely to have dry eye syndrome, which frequently occurs with glaucoma. Plus, glaucoma runs in families—so if your mom (or dad) has it, be sure to let your eye doctor know, and get screened for it regularly. “You are at higher risk for developing glaucoma and [another eye condition] macular degeneration if your mother had it,” says Dr. Sontag. “Just like everything else, there are other lifestyle factors that contribute as well.” The AAO says to also avoid smoking to reduce your risk. Here’s how to improve your eyesight—without eating carrots!

Migraines

There are multiple reasons you might have a migraine, and your mother is just one of them. According to the Mayo Clinic, women are three times more likely than men to have migraines, likely because of hormonal fluctuations. The National Headache Foundation notes that 70 to 80 percent of migraine sufferers have a relative who gets the debilitating attacks as well. “One of the main risk factors for migraines is family history of migraines,” Dr. Sontag says. “So yes, if your mother has migraines, you are more likely to develop them as well.” Emerging research is identifying how and why genetics play a role, with one large international study suggesting it may have to do with how the blood vessels function in the brain. But until we know more, if your mother suffers from migraines, you can try to reduce your risk by limiting other risk factors, like getting regular exercise and sleep, managing stress, and avoiding caffeine and any individual food triggers.

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Alzheimer's disease

Nearly two-thirds of those with Alzheimer’s are women, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The exact reasons why are yet unknown, but seem to go beyond the simple fact that women live longer than men. Researchers have also found genetic links for Alzheimer’s. “There are genetic alleles that have been identified that increase risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Sontag says. “A maternal history does increase the risk.” The National Institute on Aging reports that if your mother or father has a genetic mutation for early-onset Alzheimer’s (which appears from your thirties to mid-sixties), there’s a 50/50 chance you will inherit it—and if you do, there is a strong possibility of developing the disease. If your mother had Alzheimer’s or other dementia, you can reduce your risk by exercising, eating a heart-healthy diet, maintaining social ties, and staying mentally active. These are the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease every adult should know.

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Weight, body shape and fitness level

As with many other aspects of health, the condition of your body is partly genetic, partly environmental. So if your mother has a certain body type or weight, you may be more likely to have the same one—but that could be the result of learned behaviors, too. “While there is some solid research to support a maternal’s body shape and weight and its influence on her children, this is definitely not the only contributing factor,” Dr. Sontag says. “Many times, the lifestyle of the mother is what is learned and passed down to her kids, which includes the way she eats and exercises.” So if you grow up eating the same way as you mother, it’s not surprising if you develop a similar body. Likewise, the fitness level you can achieve is part hereditary, part lifestyle. “Genetics do play a strong role in our muscle make-up,” Dr. Sontag says. “No matter how much certain people train, they will never be as fast as Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps.” Still, if your mom is overweight, you can help avoid the same fate by eating healthy and exercising, with the goal of being the healthiest you can for your individual body.

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Heart disease and diabetes

Women may believe they don’t have to worry about heart disease, but just like men they need to understand their genetic heart disease factors. Given genetic similarities in weight and body shape, you and your mother might also have a similar risk of heart disease, the number one killer of women, as well as type-2 diabetes. A recent study presented at the American Society of Human Genetics found that maternally inherited gene variants of how women store fat can affect their risk of type-2 diabetes. “There is strong evidence that if your mother has heart disease, type-2 diabetes, or strokes, that you are at a higher risk to develop them,” Dr. Sontag says. “The younger the age that the mother developed it tends to correlate with a higher risk in the children.” But again, there are lifestyle factors to consider. “If your mother had a heart attack at 50, but weighed 300 pounds, never exercised, and smoked, the risk may be completely related to her lifestyle,” he says. “You can’t have soda every day and ice cream every night and then use your family history as an excuse when you develop diabetes.” Still, if your mother (or father) had early heart disease, Dr. Sontag recommends a checkup with a cardiologist. These are the physical and emotional ways heart disease is different for women.

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Pregnancy and fertility

If you’re looking to see what your pregnancy experience will be like, ask your mother about carrying you. “Gestational diabetes is more common in women who are risk for adult onset diabetes, which does run in families, so if you have a strong family history of diabetes, you are at increased risk for gestational diabetes,” says Pamela Berens, MD, an OBGYN with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. In addition, “preeclampsia is more common in women who have had high blood pressure, and high blood pressure may be inherited.” A Norwegian study showed severe morning sickness, or hyperemesis gravidarum, may be inherited as well. As for issues getting pregnant, most causes of infertility and miscarriage are not genetic—but some may be. “There appears to be an increased risk of endometriosis in first-degree relatives of women with endometriosis,” Dr. Berens says. “Rarely, some women with recurrent miscarriages can have an inherited chromosome issue that makes miscarriage more common, and genetic testing can be done.” For some other infertility conditions, such as PCOS, it’s not clear yet whether genetics are at play.

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Postpartum depression

You should also ask your mom if she suffered from postpartum depression after pregnancy. Like other aspects of mental health, it may be passed from mother to daughter. “Studiesshow that postpartum depression is genetically linked,” Dr. Serani says. “Your risk for PPD increases if your mother, or another family member—sister, aunt—has experienced it.” One small study from Johns Hopkins found specific chemical alterations in two genes that, when they occur during pregnancy, can predict whether a woman will develop postpartum depression with 85 percent accuracy. The researchers hope this will eventually lead to a blood test that can give pregnant women a better indication of their risk—but for now, knowing your family history is important. “Ask your mother about her postpartum experiences,” Dr. Serani says. “This can informally clue you in to whether or not depression is a risk factor for you.” Here are seven dangerous postpartum depression myths.

Breast and ovarian cancers

Awareness on the genetic link of breast and ovarian cancers may be due in part to Angelina Jolie, whose mother died from breast cancer. After discovering she carried the BRCA1 gene, the actress underwent a preventive mastectomy, reducing her breast cancer risk from 87 percent to under 5. “The gene mutations that are most commonly associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are the BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations,” Dr. Berens says. “If you have a suspicious family history—for example, if you have multiple family members with breast or ovarian cancer, if the breast cancer happened at an early age, or if the same family member had both cancers—it is more suspicious that you could have a genetic tendency.” Talk to your doctor about your individual risk if you mom or other female relatives had one of these cancers, and consider seeing a genetic counselor for genetic testing.

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Menopause

Studies have shown that the age at which your mother went through menopause will be partly responsible for when you do. In addition, if your mother went through menopause early, you should let your doctor know. “Premature ovarian insufficiency, before 40, can be caused by a number of conditions, and some of these conditions can be inherited—for instance women who are fragile X carriers,” Dr. Berens says. Fragile X is a gene mutation linked to the X chromosome, and it can trigger anxiety, hyperactivity, and intellectual disability. As for menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, Dr. Berens says scientists are trying to clarify if there’s a genetic link. The first study of its kind in humans, from UCLA, might have found a related gene variant, but more research is needed. Next, check out what your sweat says about your health.

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