This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
How many times have you reached for an ibuprofen or similar drug to relieve a fever or some kind of pain?
A new study links both over-the-counter and prescription versions of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to an increased risk of heart attack. In addition to ibuprofen, this class of medications includes naproxen, aspirin, celecoxib, diclofenac and rofecoxib, which are sold under brand names such as Motrin, Aleve, Voltaren, Celebrex and Vioxx.
In the research published in the British Medical Journal, scientists looked at more than 450,000 cases of heart attacks from four databases in the United Kingdom, Canada and Finland. They found that 60,000 of the group were taking NSAIDs near the time of their cardiovascular event. Calculations of the increased likelihood perpetrated by the medications ranged from 20 to 50 percent.
While those most vulnerable to the effects were taking the larger doses, some degree of risk elevation was present regardless of the size of the dose or amount of time the drugs were taken. The most startling finding was that the danger of increased heart attack risk was noted after just one week of being on NSAIDs.
Ibuprofen Increased Heart Attack Risk by High as 75 Percent
The data analysis on ibuprofen demonstrated the peril these drugs pose. “Use for eight to 30 days at a high dose was particularly harmful for ibuprofen (more than 1200 mg/day),” said the researchers. This dose falls under the maximum recommended dose limit for adults of 1600 mg. Patients who took the medication for a week had a 48-percent increased risk, and those who took it for a month had a 75-percent increased risk.
What Happens When You Stop Taking NSAIDs?
Interestingly, the adverse effects on the heart didn’t disappear immediately after the drug use was stopped. A slight reduction in risk was experienced one to 30 days after discontinuance, and a reduction falling below 11 percent was observed between 30 days and one year after discontinuance.
“The risk can certainly persist for several months after stopping the medication, but fortunately does go away relatively quickly over time,” said integrative physician Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum in an interview with Live in the Now. “This suggests that the problem is reversible by stopping the medication. This is very good news. Conversely, the risk doesn’t decrease over time when one stays on the medication. The elevated risk continues for as long as a person takes the drugs.”
Why NSAIDs Increase Heart Attack Risk
“The likely reason is that these medications suppress a hormone called prostacyclin, which tends to relax blood vessels and breakdown the platelet deposits that cause blockages,” explained Teitelbaum. “When this happens, blockages that normally might not be problematic can be unmasked as the blood vessel contracts and little blood clots build up. Both of these can trigger the final blockages in an already narrowed blood vessel.”
Findings Mean 30,000 to 50,000 U.S. Deaths per Year Are Preventable
“The import of the study’s findings is staggering,” expounded Teitelbaum. “When you do the math, it reveals that we are looking at 30,000 to 50,000 preventable U.S. deaths a year by using natural alternatives that have been shown to have comparable or superior efficacy to NSAIDs. This makes the use of the medications one of the major preventable causes of death in this country. To put this in perspective, the media is abuzz with the 15,000 deaths a year that are due to prescribed narcotics. NSAIDS likely cause over two to three times as many deaths.”