We all take painkillers from time to time. It gets to the point where you don’t even have to be in immense pain—if it’s going to take even a small amount of pain away, you may as well take it. It can’t hurt, right?
Actually, it might. One new study published in the journal BMJ found some pretty scary data.
The research showed that certain common anti-inflammatory drugs—like ibuprofen—can increase your risk of cardiac arrest (aka having a heart attack) by up to 50% after just one week of taking them. That’s an increased risk of HALF in just seven days of taking the pills!
The study analyzed 446,000 people’s medical records from Canada, Finland and the UK. Out of those people, 61,460 had suffered a heart attack.
“This is a very nice observational study that, at least in my opinion, is consistent with prior data from clinical trials and past observational studies. And that is, that probably all NSAIDs—and there are many types of them — increase your risk of adverse heart events,” says Dr. Christian Ruff, director of general cardiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
This isn’t the first time research like this has come about. Not too long ago, Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte completed research that showed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (known as NSAIDS), like ibuprofen, were also linked to a high risk of having a heart attack.
Some experts actually believe that these kinds of NSAIDs shouldn’t even be sold in stores because of the risks associated with them.
“The current message being sent to the public about NSAIDs is wrong. If you can buy these drugs in a convenience store then you probably think ‘they must be safe for me,'” said Professor Gislason. “Allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advise or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe.”
Don’t mistake this study as a reason to switch over to acetaminophen, the painkiller found in Tylenol. It may not have been linked with heart problems, but long-term use of acetaminophen has been shown to have a toxic effect on a person’s liver.
Really, no NSAIDs are completely risk free. That said, it’s best to only take ibuprofen and other NSAIDs when absolutely necessary. Try icing muscle pain with a hot or cold pack, or relieving head or back pain with a massage. If you must take an NSAID, experts suggest starting with the lowest dose possible.
Also, if you must continuously take NSAIDs, it’s important to know the signs of heart attack. Get medical attention right away if you experience anything such as chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness in one part of the body or side of the body, or sudden slurred speech.
Did you know that NSAIDs could increase your risk of heart attack? How often do you pop painkillers like ibuprofen?