Fight Back Against Gout with Medication and Lifestyle Changes, From the February 2016 Harvard Men's Health Watch

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Lifestyle changes like reducing intake of meat, shellfish, and alcohol and losing excess weight can help lower uric acid levels that lead to gout attacks.

Gout is like no other joint pain. It strikes suddenly, like flicking on a light switch, and brings pain that is often severe, with intense swelling and redness. It is triggered by the crystallization of uric acid within the joints. It affects more than eight million people, but older adults are the most susceptible, according to the February 2016 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch.

The large joint of the big toe is the most commonly affected area, followed by the side of the foot and ankle, along with the knees, hands, and wrists. In general, if a person has one gout attack, there is a good chance he will have another within the next year.

“The first line of treatment is medication,” says Dr. Robert Shmerling, clinical chief of rheumatology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. This includes common over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Pain relievers and prescription anti-inflammatories like colchicine (Colcrys) and corticosteroids also can help.

But medication is only one way to fight gout attacks. “Altering lifestyle habits can add further protection,” says Dr. Shmerling. Some lifestyle changes that can help with gout include:

  • Reduce intake of meat and shellfish, which can raise uric acid levels.
  • Limit intake of alcohol and drinks with high-fructose corn syrup, such as soft drinks.
  • Increase intake of coffee, cherry juice, and vitamin C–rich foods like bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and oranges, all of which have been shown to lower uric acid levels.

Read the full-length article: “Fight back against gout”

Also in the February 2016 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch:

  • A new look at treating Alzheimer’s
  • Tracking down the best activity trackers
  • How targeted cancer therapy works
  • Family history and your risk of heart disease

The Harvard Men's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

Media: For a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly, please use the contact information provided above.

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Kristen Rapoza
Harvard Health Publications
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