Can NSAIDs Increase Our Risk of Heart Attack?

The Potential Problem of Pain Relief

Active adults and athletes perform intense workouts often causing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Sometimes this discomfort requires a little more than a soothing Epsom salt bath. Many individuals will use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen for pain relief. NSAIDs can be purchased over the counter (OTC) from any local store. 

Consumers often feel over the counter (OTC) meds are safer than prescription drugs. We purchase OTC drugs including NSAIDs without worry they could potentially be harmful. The majority of households will have a bottle of Ibuprofen or other NSAID for pain relief and pop a few without thinking of any adverse health effects.

 

Should I Be Concerned?

Ibuprofen pain relief tablets
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

According to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), non-aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may increase our risk of heart attack or stroke. Because of this safety announcement by the FDA, it’s recommended to remain conservative and limit our use of NSAIDs like Ibuprofen. At the very least, we should discuss taking NSAIDs with our doctor. 

Over the counter (OTC) and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) continue to be widely researched because of links to increased risk of heart attack and severe gastrointestinal complications. Some research findings were unfavorable for NSAID use according to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine and Research. Evidently, NSAIDs have been a significant contributor to cardiovascular events. Clinicians and doctors were also advised to remain cautious when prescribing NSAIDs to their patients.  

 

Do Your Research

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) is an excellent source of information for consumers, especially for nutrition and certain drug warnings. It’s a good idea to occasionally check the FDA for items that could be potentially harmful to our health. Without conducting our own research on food, supplements, and pain relievers like NSAIDs, we are usually left in the dark about any safety concerns. 

According to other research, NSAIDs can also be contraindicated for those suffering from certain medical conditions. It appears individuals with hypertension or existing heart conditions are at greater risk of increased health issues using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Further studies conducted on patients with prior heart attack suggested even short term use of NSAIDs placed the individual at increased risk of heart attack or death. 

Alternative recommendations indicated for those with existing heart conditions included acetaminophen, the familiar ingredient in Tylenol for pain relief. Tylenol may be a better fit but before taking this or any alternative option, it’s important to have a discussion with your physician. 

 

Common NSAIDs

Over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been popular for years providing effective pain relief for sore muscles, tendonitis, sprains, headaches and menstrual cramps. Many of us consider NSAIDs an athlete’s best friend when it comes to reducing pain. It appears the health risks may now outweigh the benefits. The following are common NSAIDs approved in the United States and available without a prescription: 

Some OTC cold medications also include NSAIDs according to the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA also indicated no period of using NSAIDs is shown to be without risk.

 

Should I Take NSAIDs?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not saying to stop taking NSAIDs but offering an informational safety announcement. They felt enough evidence was collected to inform consumers of the potential of NSAIDs to increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. The positive about the FDA announcement for NSAID use is consumer awareness. It allows us the ability to make an informed decision about nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and our health.   

Electing to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) remains a personal choice recommended to be discussed with your physician. NSAIDs are also indicated to provide effective pain relief but intended for short term use of no more than ten days. Using NSAIDs for longer periods should be done under the care of a physician who can monitor any adverse health effects. 

Sources:
C.K.S. Ong et al., An Evidence-Based Update on Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, Journal of Clinical Medicine and Research, 2007

Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Updates, FDA Strengthens Warning of Heart Attack and Stroke Risk for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, 2015

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA strengthens warning that non-aspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause heart attacks or strokes, 2015

Anne-Marie Schjerning Olsen, MB et al., Duration of Treatment with Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Impact on Risk of Death and Recurrent Myocardial Infarction in Patients with Prior Myocardial Infarction: A Nationwide Cohort Study, American Heart Association Journals, 2011

 

 

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