When you have a headache or feel generally unwell, do you turn toward anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen and aspirin to ease your pain? Whether you regularly grab medication or not, this new study from The BMJ, and reported on by The Guardian, found that taking common anti-inflammatory medication can actually increase your risk of cardiac arrest by about 50 percent after only one week of taking them.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDS, can cause a greater risk of a heart attack, and the more often you take them, the greater your chance is, according to the new study. The Guardian reported from the study’s findings that “the overall odds of having a heart attack were about 20 percent to 50 percent greater if using NSAIDS compared with not using drugs.” The study was purely observational, so there’s no direct cause and effect research here, but here’s what the authors of the study found.
The study concludes that of all the NSAIDS studied, there was a greater than 90 percent probability that they were associated with a high risk of heart attack. Researchers analyzed results of 446,763 people in healthcare databases spanning Finland, Canada, and the UK. Of those analyzed, 61,640 had a heart attack. The study’s authors stated that “the potential increase in risk was 75 percent for ibuprofen and naproxen and more than 100 percent for rofecoxib but that uncertainty about the extent of the increased risk was greatest for ibuprofen and naproxen,” per The Guardian.
The correlation between those took the drugs became clear with the results from the database. This isn’t the first time that ibuprofen in particular was brought to the public’s eye for its link to cardiac arrest. The Sun reported on warnings from Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte in March after their research revealed that NSAIDS caused a greater likelihood of a heart attack. This study, however, only stated that higher doses of ibuprofen amounted to an increased risk of about 50 percent.
So what does this mean for you and those common painkillers in the medicine cabinet? Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told The Guardian that this study is “good quality, observational research [but]… This study suggests that even a few days’ use is associated with an increased risk, but it may not be as clear as the authors suggest… [there is] no reason to induce anxiety in most users of these drugs.” With that warning, it’s clear that we should be aware of the risks associated, especially when they are pulling in probabilities of 90 percent or higher, but that it’s nothing to be alarmed about if you are not predisposed or already at higher risk of heart attack.
It’s also possible that you’re not taking the right painkiller for your ailment, which can also lead to heart attack risk factors, along with the fact that many take high doses unnecessarily. To learn when to take Advil over Aleve, for instance, check out our report here. In the meantime, protect your heart health and stick to the lowest effective dose to treat pain relief, fever, arthritis, inflammation, and high blood pressure. As more studies become available on anti-inflammatory drugs, both prescription NSAIDS and otherwise, we’ll continue to report on these stories to cover the long-term heart risk, comparing them to previous studies.