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  • Blood Pressure Monitors

    Blood pressure is an important marker of health and a home blood pressure monitor is a wonderful tool for ensuring your numbers stay in the healthy range. A home monitor may lead to savings in health care costs, because you may need fewer visits to the doctor’s office, and it has the advantage of eliminating “white coat hypertension,” the falsely high blood pressure readings that can occur due to the stress of being in the doctor’s office.

    All blood pressure monitors have three key parts: the cuff, the gauge, and the stethoscope. On many models, the stethoscope is a built in sensor. Use this buying guide to find the right monitor to fit your health needs, lifestyle, and budget. As you choose a blood pressure monitor, keep the following in mind:

    • If you have an abnormal heartbeat, home readings can be inaccurate. Talk to your doctor about whether this is a concern for you.
    • Your health insurance may partially or fully cover the cost of a home blood pressure monitor. Call to find out before you purchase one.
    • If your arm is smaller or larger than average, you may need a smaller or larger cuff. If you are unsure whether an arm cuff will fit, ask the pharmacist if you can try before buying.
    • Manual Monitors

      What they are: With manual monitors, the user inflates the cuff around the arm and listens for the pulse through a stethoscope to determine blood pressure as the cuff deflates.

      Why to buy: Once you master their use, manual monitors are accurate and less expensive than most automated models.

      Things to consider: Manual monitors are more difficult to use than automated models, requiring more practice to learn or even another person to operate it.

    • Semi-Automatic & Automatic Arm Sleeve Monitors

      What they are: These devices have built-in stethoscopes with readings displayed on a digital screen. With semi-automatic monitors, the user inflates the cuff, while fully automatic monitors inflate the cuff for you. 

      Why to buy: These monitors typically are more expensive than manual options, but may vary in price depending on features. If you are looking for the most accurate and easiest way to store and track blood pressure readings over time, these models are a good option. 

      Things to consider: If you’re more concerned about cost than ease of use, manual options may be a better choice.

    • Wrist & Finger Monitors

      What they are: These newer devices allow a smaller cuff to be placed on the wrist or on a finger, instead of on the upper arm. 

      Why to buy: Putting on and taking off these monitors is easier than manipulating an arm cuff.  

      Things to consider: Although they tend to fall in the same cost range as automatic arm monitors, these monitors tend to be less accurate and lead to more errors than arm cuff monitors.

    • Advanced Features

      What they are: Depending on your budget and health tracking needs, you may want to consider spending extra dollars to purchase a digital monitor with more advanced features, including memory to store readings over time and computer software to track and graph your readings on a computer or mobile device. 

      Why to buy: Advanced features allow you to track blood pressure over time. Along with a few observations and notes, this can help you uncover connections between your behaviors, such as what you’ve eaten or how much you’ve exercised, and your blood pressure readings. Understanding these connections can help you take positive, effective actions to improve your health. 

      Things to consider: Advanced features cost more and may take more time to learn how to use. Many come with good instructions but if you’re uncomfortable with computers you may find these features take significant effort to learn and use.

  • Heart Rate Monitors

    Heart rate monitors vary in size and function, but most are easy to use and provide valuable insights that support your exercise goals. For example, a heart rate monitor may help you stay in your target heart rate zone while exercising so you can safely focus on burning fat or improving your cardiovascular fitness. People with certain health conditions may use heart rate monitors to track their heart rate throughout the day and catch issues early. Heart rate monitors may also help keep exercise safe for people who, due to health conditions, should not exceed specific levels.

    Remember to always consult a doctor before starting any exercise routine, particularly if you are overweight or managing health conditions.

    • Basic Digital Heart Rate Monitors

      What they are: Many heart rate monitors look and function similarly to a wristwatch. Simple heart rate monitors measure your pulse in beats per minute while advanced models keep a history of readings and track data like irregular heartbeats and average and maximum heart rates. Some monitors even offer display text in multiple languages including English, German, French, and Spanish.

      Why to buy: Measuring your heart rate is important for getting the most out of your workouts, and can be especially important if you have heart health concerns. Most monitors save results by date and time, some for more than one user, and many have averaging functions so you get a feel for how your heart is doing over time.

      Things to consider: Many heart rate monitors include a chest strap that sends a wireless signal to the monitor on your wrist. Other heart rate monitors attach to your wrist or finger where your pulse rate may be counted through the skin. While comfort is one consideration, keep in mind that some experts believe chest straps are most accurate. Check which types of batteries the monitor takes and make sure you can replace them yourself. Look for features such as power-saving modes and low-battery indicators.

    • Multipurpose, Multimedia Monitors

      What they are: Usually worn on your wrist or arm, all-in-one digital devices may measure heart rate, calories burned, number of steps taken, and more. Look for those that combine a heart rate monitor with other interesting tools, like GPS sports watches and mp3 players. Some monitors even interface with exercise equipment or computer software to give you more detail and allow the sharing of results with your doctor or personal trainer.

      Why to buy: Multipurpose monitors provide a better overall picture of your health by tracking multiple factors in one place and cutting down on the number of different gadgets you need. Combining music with your workout makes it a lot more fun.

      Things to consider: Make sure the monitor is easy for you to use—pay attention to the size of the screen and buttons, how easy it is to switch between operating modes, how long the battery lasts, and so forth. When using a device for multiple purposes, you may use power more quickly and have to replace or recharge batteries more often. Online user reviews can be helpful when choosing a device combined with a heart rate monitor.

    • Specialty Heart Rate Monitors

      What they are: Heart rate monitors are sometimes designed to meet other needs, such as water-resistant and waterproof models. There are even heart rate monitors for cyclists to attach to their bikes, which can record data such as bike speed, pedal rpms, and elevation as well.

      Why to buy: If you’re going to wear your heart rate monitor outdoors in rain, snow, or other wet weather, look for ones rated as water resistant. If there’s a possibility your heart rate monitor will get submerged in water, even for a short time period, you’ll need one that’s waterproof.

      Things to consider: There are varying degrees of “water resistant” depending on how much moisture exposure the device can handle, so read labels carefully and err on the side of caution.

    • Fingertip Heart Rate Monitors

      What they are: Fingertip heart rate monitors—which measure your heart rate through the skin in a few short seconds—are rapidly growing in popularity.

      Why  to buy: They’re a portable, easy-to-use version of a heart rate monitor that you can carry in your pocket or purse and use on the go.

      Things to consider: Some experts believe fingertip heart rate monitors are not as accurate as the chest strap versions. Many fingertip monitors are small, so make sure you can easily read the display screen and operate any buttons.

  • Sleep Aids

    Characterized by difficulty falling asleep, waking up often, and poor-quality sleep, insomnia can take a toll on health and leave a person exhausted and cranky. If you have trouble sleeping, an occasional over-the-counter sleep aid may help you get the sleep you need. This buying guide will help you find a sleep aid to fit your health goals, lifestyle, and budget. Keep the following additional points in mind as you choose a product:

    • Everyone has a sleepless night here or there, but if persistent insomnia is new for you, talk to your doctor. It may signal a more serious health problem.
    • When selecting a product, consider medications you use and health conditions you have. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if unsure about whether any particular sleep aid is safe for you.
    • If you have a history of mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, do not use sleep aids without first discussing it with your doctor. Some of these products may intensify mental health issues and many can interfere with medications used to manage mental health issues.
    • Use sleep aids carefully, follow all package directions, and always compare ingredients to avoid accidentally taking two medications together that contain the same active ingredients.
    • Do not use sleep aids and alcohol together. Alcohol increases the sedative effects of over-the-counter sleep medications; combining the two can lead to dizziness or fainting.
    • Over-the-counter medications work best when taken occasionally. When taken long-term, these medications can lose their effectiveness and also cause some dependency.
    • Over-the-Counter Medications

      What they are: There are two over-the-counter medications approved for use as sleep aids to manage occasional insomnia:

      • Diphenhydramine. The active ingredient in the antihistamine Benadryl, this medication also is found in brand name sleep aids such as Tylenol PM and Sominex, as well as numerous generic sleep aids.
      • Doxylamine. The active ingredient in Unisom, doxylamine also is found in generic sleep aids.

      Why to buy: Diphenhydramine and doxylamine effectively induce drowsiness and lead to uninterrupted sleep for many people. These products come in many forms, including soft gels, tablets, caplets, and chewables. Soft gels and chewables are faster acting than tablets.

      Things to consider: You should not take diphenhydramine or doxylamine if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, or if you have glaucoma, heart problems, enlarged prostate, or ulcers. Additionally, do not take doxylamine if you have or have had asthma or bronchitis. Some people feel groggy the next day after taking these medications. For very few people, especially children, diphenhydramine and doxylamine may cause agitation and alertness, which will not help insomnia!

    • Herbs, Dietary Supplements, & Other Natural Sleep Aids

      What they are: Natural sleep aids include dietary supplements, herbs, and other non-medication substances. Common natural sleep aids include:

      • Melatonin. A hormone naturally produced by the body to induce sleep, which can be taken as a dietary supplement as well
      • Valerian, chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower. Herbs believed to have sleep-inducing and relaxation properties
      • Kava kava. An herb with relaxation properties, which is no longer recommended by many health care providers due to potential problems with liver toxicity
      • Theanine. A substance found in green tea that can promote relaxation and sleep.
      • Magnesium. A mineral that the body uses to relax muscles
      • Lavender. An aromatherapy herb (smelled, not taken orally) that may promote relaxation and restfulness
      • Hops. A plant best known as a flavoring component for beer, which can be used as a dietary supplement to manage insomnia
      • L-tryptophan. An amino acid (a building block for protein) that may improve sleep for some people

      Why to buy: Some of these herbs and dietary supplements have research to support that they may be helpful for managing insomnia, including melatonin, valerian, chamomile, passionflower, theanine, magnesium, hops, and L-tryptophan. They may be less likely to cause next-day grogginess than over-the-counter sleep medications.

      Things to consider: Natural does not always mean safe. All dietary supplements and herbs should be carefully reviewed with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. If you are managing a health condition, this will help to ensure a supplement is safe to combine with medications you are using. Use plant- and herb-based natural sleep aids with caution if you have hay fever or seasonal allergies; some of these products may cause allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. Natural sleep aids may not be safe for people with a history of mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. If in doubt, talk to your doctor first. Magnesium can have laxative effects, so start with a low dose to assess your tolerance to this mineral.

    • Stop-Snoring Products

      What they are: Stop-snoring products are designed to decrease bothersome snoring, either through physically opening breathing passageways, or by changing how the muscles in the mouth and throat are contracting or relaxing. Mouthpieces and nasal clips and strips are used to open breathing passages. Homeopathic, herbal, and other natural substances are taken orally or sprayed into the throat to ease snoring.

      Why to buy: Some people find stop-snoring products to be helpful. They are relatively inexpensive and the products designed to physically open breathing passages are safe for nearly everyone.

      Things to consider: Snoring can signal a serious health condition, such as sleep apnea. If you’ve developed snoring recently, if your snoring is severe, or if you are groggy most of the time during the day, talk to your doctor before you try to self-treat snoring.

  • Scales

    Many people track body weight to ensure they stay in a healthy range, and for the millions of people who go on a weight-loss diet each year, a good-quality scale is an essential tool. As you choose a scale, keep the following in mind.

    • Health insurance may cover the cost of a home scale, or you may be able to use a health savings account to pay for one. Call your insurance provider to find out before making your purchase.
    • Place the scale on a flat, hard surface for the most accurate readings.
    • Heavier weight that makes it difficult for scales to shift around can be an indication of higher quality.
    • Before purchasing, weigh yourself five times in a row. If you get the same number all five times, the scale has good precision.
    • To check accuracy, compare weight from your home scale against weight on an upright scale at a doctor’s office. These numbers should be the same or very close to one another.
    • Many things cause short-term weight fluctuations, including how much and what you’ve eaten, whether you’ve exercised recently, whether you’re properly hydrated, what you’re wearing, and time of day. Weigh yourself once per week or less if you’re trying to lose weight; daily fluctuations can lead to dieting frustration.
    • Basic Mechanical Scale (Dial)

      What they are: Mechanical, or analog, scales have a dial readout displaying weight in pounds and kilograms.

      Why to buy: Mechanical scales tend to be less expensive, don’t require a battery, may come with extra large numbers for ease of use, and are the simplest to use.

      Things to consider: Over time, mechanical scales may consistently add or subtract a few pounds. Most come with a tension knob to adjust the scale as required

    • Digital Scale with Added Features

      What they are: These scales give a digital (and sometimes audio) readout of weight.

      Why to buy: Digital scales may have features to allow storing and tracking weight over time, may have the ability to switch between pounds and kilograms, and may provide voice readouts of weight. If several family members are using one scale, consider a model with a multiple-user memory function.

      Things to consider: If you’re concerned about cost and ease of use, a mechanical scale may be a better choice. Digital scales require batteries, which need to be replaced when they wear out, so consider buying a rechargeable set for best value.

    • Digital Scale with Full Features

      What they are: Digital scales with full features can measure and track body weight, body mass index, percent body fat and lean body mass, hydration status, and bone mass.

      Why to buy: These models are a good choice for those who want the most information about weight and related measures. Tracking fat and lean body mass can motivate some people to more consistently follow a healthy diet and exercise plan.

      Things to consider: Extra features often mean higher cost. These models provide an idea of fat and lean mass, bone mass, and hydration, but are not always completely accurate. You should not rely on results from these scales to make important medical decisions. Digital scales require batteries, which need to be replaced when they wear out, so consider buying a rechargeable set for best value.

  • Pedometers

    Walking is a fun and relatively easy way to get heart-healthy cardio while burning fat and calories. To maintain a healthy weight and stay active, try walking about 10,000 steps each day (approximately five miles). Do you want to lose a few extra pounds? Just step up the amount of walking each day. Whatever your goals, a pedometer is an easy way to keep track of your steps on the road to success.

    Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you are overweight or managing a health condition.

    • Basic Pedometers

      What they are:A pedometer is a small device, usually worn on your belt or clipped to a pocket, which counts how many steps you take in a day. There are two types:

      • Pendulum: Placement of a pendulum pedometer is vital for accuracy and they must remain in a vertical position on the hip or waist band.
      • Piezoelectric accelerometers: These can be placed anywhere on the front of the body, and some can even be kept in a pocket or on a neck lanyard and still provide accurate step counts.

      Most pedometers weigh only a few ounces and include a security strap to attach to clothing to prevent you from losing it.

      Why to buy: Pedometers are an easy way to track your daily exercise and overall health. Beyond counting steps, many pedometers track the distance in miles, amount of time you’ve been active, and total calories burned.

      Things to consider: When choosing a pedometer, consider the size of the display screen and the ease of reading results. Pendulum-style pedometers are generally less expensive than accelerometers, but the counting of incidental steps can be frustrating. Advantages of accelerometer pedometers are there are no moving parts and they remain silent as they record every step you take. Remember you’ll need to set your average step length or stride length in order for the pedometer to be accurate. Read the instructions on your pedometer carefully; most ask for the step length and explain how to measure it properly. Also note that some pedometers reset at midnight so you’re ready to go each morning, while others require you to manually reset them. Look at whether you need to change the batteries regularly or if it’s rechargeable through a USB connection to your computer.

    • Specialized Pedometers

      What they are: Monitors that help you measure steps plus other tracking, such as heart rate, calories burned, and so on.

      Why to buy: Pedometers with features that track heart rate and so on are handy for keeping an eye on your cardiovascular health, too. More advanced models include a memory function to save your accomplishments and some can upload data to a website, so you can easily track your results online and share with your doctors and friends.

      Things to consider: When investing in tools to support your health goals, sometimes simplest is best, but other times it can be helpful to combine goals and look for a device that will give you other helpful information, such as heart rate or trackable online information.

  • Pain Relievers

    Your body uses pain to tell you something is wrong, but in many cases, the problem is minor and may be managed at home with the help of an over-the-counter pain reliever. However, not every pain reliever is right for every situation, and, like all medicines, they should be used with care. Use this quick guide to pick the one that can maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of using these products. As you choose an over-the-counter pain reliever, keep the following in mind:

    • Talk to your doctor if you experience prolonged or severe pain; unchecked pain can signal something serious that requires medical care.
    • Always compare ingredients to avoid accidentally taking two medications together that contain the same active ingredients.
    • If you are treating several aches and pains at once, check with your doctor or pharmacist about which medications are okay to use together.
    • Ask your doctor or pharmacist how best to avoid mixing drugs that should not be combined, including combinations of over-the-counter and prescription medications.
    • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

      What they are: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) include aspirin and the non-aspirin medications ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs block the production of prostaglandins, substances made by the body that cause pain, inflammation, and fever.

      Why to buy: NSAIDs relieve muscular and joint pain and may help manage menstrual cramps. Some people find them helpful for treating headaches, especially aspirin (see specialty pain relievers below for more information). NSAIDs may also lessen pain associated with colds, flu, and toothaches.

      Things to consider: Non-aspirin NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen) slightly increase the risk of heart attack, while aspirin decreases heart attack risk. If you have existing heart disease, or if you already take daily aspirin to lower heart attack risk, consult your doctor before using ibuprofen, naproxen, or additional aspirin. All NSAIDs may increase the risk of bleeding and may cause ulcers in some people. If you have a sensitive stomach, acetaminophen may be a better option.

      Children and teens should not use aspirin or ibuprofen as it can lead to a rare, life-threatening reaction called Reye’s (pronounced “rise”) syndrome in these age groups.

    • Acetaminophen

      What it is: Acetaminophen is a non-NSAID pain reliever and fever reducer that is believed to work by decreasing the body’s sensitivity to pain (in other words, by raising the pain threshold).

      Why to buy: Acetaminophen is a fever reducer that may help manage many of the same pains as NSAIDs, including headaches, toothaches, muscular and joint pain, menstrual cramps, and painful cold and flu symptoms. Acetaminophen often is used instead of NSAIDs, because it is easier on the stomach, and is safe for use in children and teens.

      Things to consider: Use as directed. Exceeding the recommended dosage can cause liver disease and even death. Use caution with acetaminophen and alcohol as this combination can harm the liver. Acetaminophen may not be right for people with liver disease or abnormal liver function.If in doubt, always consult your doctor.

    • Specialty Pain Relievers

      What they are: Specialty pain relievers include those that contain NSAIDs or acetaminophen, plus other ingredients to treat a particular issue.

      Why to buy: People use specialty pain relievers when they have a cold or flu, to help them sleep when they have pain, or to treat severe headaches such as migraines. The additional ingredients are targeted to the problem. For example, cold and flu products may contain pseudoephedrine, dextromethorphan, or guaifenesin, to manage sinus pain, cough, and congestion, respectively. Migraine formulas often contain aspirin, caffeine, and acetaminophen, a combination especially effective for headaches.

      Things to consider: These products contain the same ingredients as regular pain relievers—either NSAIDs or acetaminophen—so apply the same cautions. Additionally, you may need to avoid other ingredients in these products. Consult your doctor if you are unsure.

      Some specialty pain relievers are not safe for use in young children and those that contain aspirin always should be avoided. Ask your pediatrician or pharmacist if you need help selecting an appropriate product for your child.

    • Topical Pain Relievers

      What they are: “Topical” refers to pain relievers that are applied to the skin. They may contain NSAIDs like aspirin or diclofenac, or anaesthetic aromatic compounds like menthol and camphor. These aromatic compounds can be derived from plants but most commercial products contain synthetic versions. Menthol is derived from plants in the mint family and creates a cool sensation; camphor is derived primarily from the camphor laurel tree and may produce either warm or cool sensations. Some topical pain relievers combine menthol with methyl salicylate, an aromatic compound from wintergreen that is chemically similar to aspirin.

      Why to buy: If you have pain over a small area, such as a muscle or joint, a topical pain reliever can deliver medicine straight to the area, without having to go through the digestive tract. This may bring faster relief, typically with fewer side effects.

      Things to consider: If a topical pain reliever contains the same active ingredient as another medication you are using, such as aspirin, do not take the two products together. Pain relievers applied to the skin are still drugs and should be treated as such.The same cautions apply, such as avoiding topical aspirin if you already take daily aspirin or if you are at risk of bleeding or ulcers. Do not use aspirin-based topical pain relievers on children or teens without first checking with your doctor. If you choose a topical preparation with aromatic compounds, check to see if methyl salicylate or wintergreen oil is on the list of ingredients. Methyl salicylate overdose can occur if it is used over a large area of the body or very often. The risk of overdose is higher for babies and toddlers.

  • Smoking Cessation Products

    Many things motivate people to quit tobacco: being a good role model, wanting to reduce others’ exposure to second hand smoke, saving money, and wanting to feel better and improve health. Whatever your reason, keep in mind that quitting cold turkey is the least successful method for kicking cigarettes for good. Fortunately, many over-the-counter and prescription quit aids have been developed that may significantly improve your odds of success. As you figure out which quit-smoking aids best meet your needs, keep the following in mind:

    • Some treatments to stop smoking are covered by health insurance. Check with your carrier to see.
    • Some products are available both over the counter (behind the pharmacy counter) and with a prescription. Ask your health insurance about whether you need a prescription for coverage or reimbursement.
    • Try, try, and try again. People who successfully quit smoking rarely do so on the first attempt. If you’ve tried before without success, don’t be discouraged. Consider a different quit aid—the nicotine patch instead of gum, or adding in a prescription medication—and evaluate what worked and didn’t work to keep you on track during past attempts to quit.
    • Start with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist. They can offer invaluable advice and connect you with programs for people trying to quit, including support groups and other resources. Consider taking advantage of these supports, because most people do best when they combine quit-smoking products with behavior change programs.
    • When selecting a product, consider your current medications and health conditions. Consult your doctor or pharmacist if unsure about whether any particular smoking cessation product is safe for you.
    • Use nicotine replacement carefully and follow all package directions. Some people load up on patches, gum, and sprays yet continue to smoke at the same time. This can overload your system with nicotine, resulting in jitters, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, and trouble sleeping. Some products can be used together, so ask your doctor or pharmacist what’s best for you.
    • Nicotine Patches

      What they are: Nicotine patches are similar to an adhesive bandage; you place one on your skin and it releases a constant amount of nicotine into the body while you wear it. They come in different sizes, with larger sizes delivering more nicotine.

      Why to buy: Nicotine replacement patches are available over the counter or with a prescription, and typically cost less per day than a pack of cigarettes. Patches are convenient and easy to use and can be removed during sleep to lessen the likelihood of insomnia. Due to the constant, slow release of nicotine, you are not likely to develop a craving for a patch; it doesn’t provide the intense delivery of a cigarette.

      Things to consider: Unlike smoking, which delivers a large dose of nicotine to your body within seconds, nicotine from a patch can take up to three hours to get into the body. For this reason, putting on a patch when a cigarette craving strikes is not effective. The nicotine patch reduces smoking withdrawal symptoms, such as lack of concentration and irritability.

    • Nicotine Gum

      What they are: Nicotine replacement gums are available over the counter or with a prescription and typically cost much less per day than a pack of cigarettes. Gum comes in different strengths to provide the amount of nicotine you need, based on your previous smoking habits.

      Why to buy: Gums are relatively convenient and easy to use, although you must remember to keep yours with you, because it must be chewed frequently to deliver enough nicotine to manage cravings. Though it cannot get nicotine into your body quite as quickly as a cigarette, gum delivers nicotine within minutes, which is far faster than a patch.

      Things to consider: Nicotine gum should not be used with cigarettes and you should not eat or drink for 15 minutes before or while using the gum. To chew enough gum to quell cravings, most people need between 15 and 30 pieces per day, chewed off and on for about 30 minutes. Nicotine gum should not be chewed continuously like regular gum and should never be swallowed. It is chewed a few times to break it down and then placed in between your gum and cheek for 10 or 15 minutes, chewed again for a bit, then put back into the cheek. Continuous chewing may cause stomachaches.

    • Lozenges & Lollipops

      What they are: Nicotine replacement lozenges and lollipops are available over the counter or with a prescription. They may cost a bit more than patches or gum, but typically less than a pack of cigarettes. Lozenges and lollipops come in different strengths to provide the amount of nicotine you need, based on your previous smoking habits.

      Why to buy: Some people don’t like to chew gum and prefer sucking on a candy to replace nicotine when quitting smoking. These products are relatively convenient, but you must remember to keep them on hand to use throughout the day. Lozenges and lollipops deliver nicotine within a few minutes, similar to gum.

      Things to consider: Nicotine lozenges and lollipops should not be used with cigarettes and you should not eat or drink for 15 minutes before or while they are in your mouth. Nicotine lozenges and lollipops should not be chewed or swallowed as this can lead to heartburn and stomachaches. Some people find these products irritate the mouth and throat.

    • Nicotine Nasal Sprays & Inhalers

      What they are: These products deliver nicotine through a spray into the nose or are inhaled through the mouth. They are available by prescription only.

      Why to buy: Nicotine nasal sprays and inhalers deliver nicotine as quickly as a cigarette, making them particularly helpful for people who are highly dependent on tobacco. For the person who smokes more than a pack of cigarettes per day, these products may be very effective.

      Things to consider: You need a prescription to obtain a nicotine spray or inhaler. Sprays cost about the same as gums and patches, but inhalers can be more expensive. They may be covered by insurance, which can help reduce the cost.

    • Non-Nicotine Prescription Medications

      What they are: Two different non-nicotine prescription medications may help people quit smoking by reducing the desire to smoke.. These are bupropion (brand name Zyban) and varenicline (brand name Chantix).

      Why to buy: These medications may significantly increase the quit smoking success rate beyond using nicotine replacement alone. They can be used in conjunction with nicotine replacement, further increasing success rates of quitting.

      Things to consider: Like all prescription medications, these drugs can have side effects. Many people tolerate them well, but some people experience very serious side effects, particularly from varenicline, which in some people causes hostility, agitation, anger, aggression, depressed mood, anxiety, paranoia, confusion, mania, or suicidal thoughts or actions. These can develop when a person begins taking the medication, after several weeks of treatment, or after stopping the varenicline. Insurance may not cover the cost of these medications.

  • Medical ID for People with Heart Conditions

    In heart patients, certain metals used in implantable devices, such as a stent, artificial valve, pacemaker, and ICD (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator), may be “ferromagnetic,” which means they are attracted to magnets. This may mean you cannot have an MRI (magnetic resolution imaging) scan if you are injured.

    Most people who have had open heart surgery for a coronary artery bypass or valve replacement have metal sternal wire sutures that are generally considered to be safe for MRIs, but may interfere with the quality of the image produced.

    A heart patient medical identification provides important information to first responders. A medical identification bracelet or necklace will help determine whether it’s safe for them to use an MRI scan on you to diagnose an injury. Also, if you have a stent, emergency responders need to know, and if you’re on a blood thinner, emergency responders are especially cautious about any potential blood loss.

    • Medical Identification Bracelets and Necklaces

      What they are: A medical identification is an engraved bracelet or necklace that presents a concise overview of your conditions, allergies, and medicines. It will alert a doctor or paramedic before starting treatment. Informing medical personnel about your unique medical conditions and needs greatly aids prehospital care and helps ensure accurate and appropriate treatment.

      Why to buy: In an emergency, when you might not be able to speak for yourself, a medical ID bracelet or necklace speaks for you. Symptoms of common ailments may easily be misdiagnosed. Medical identification helps ensure prompt diagnosis, which is critical to effective treatment.

      Things to consider: Medical identification should be visible and recognizable. Don’t get something that is easily confused with other jewelry. It should include your specific heart condition and which medication you are on. If you have a pacemaker, your medical identification should include the brand and serial number of your pacemaker. In addition, carry an identification card that includes your name, emergency contact phone number, phone number of your doctor, and any medications and doses you're taking. First responders may not look in your personal belongings for an identification card with your medical information, so wearing a visible identification is more likely to protect you than only carrying a card.

References

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2. Von Schacky C, Fischer S, Weber PC. Long-term effects of dietary marine omega-3 fatty acids upon plasma and cellular lipids, platelet function, and eicosanoid formation in humans. J Clin Invest 1985;76:1626-31.

3. Leaf A, Weber PC. Cardiovascular effects of n-3 fatty acids. N Engl J Med 1988;318:549-57 [review].

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