New research shows taking an NSAID increases your risk for a heart attack. Actually the study shows an increased risk as soon as the first week of taking an NSAID. The study also found the risk increased with taking a stronger dose of NSAID. This news is shocking for many people in and out of the health care industry because NSAID’s have always been thought of and promoted as the safest medication to take to manage pain.
To digest this information let’s start with what is an NSAID anyway. NSAID stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug. As the name imply these drugs are not steroids but reduces inflammation in the body all the same. Steroids are still stronger but come with other issues and health concerns which is why drugs like NSAID’s are used in their place. An NSAID works by inhibiting the creation of the enzyme cyclooxygenase which is critical for the inflammatory process. You might remember that selective C0x-2 NSAID Vioxx was taken off of the market in 2004 due to the significant increased risk it posed for heart attack and stroke. What always confounded my was that Celebrex, another selective C0x-2 NSAID was allowed to remain despite causing the same increased risk. These selective Cox-2 NSAID’s are very strong and not commonly prescribed for average aches and pains. This study, though, looked also into the risk for your average daily NSIAD, something you probably have in your cupboard right now. Drugs we think of as being very safe.
This study found the risk for heart attack was increased for over the counter ibuprofen and naproxen, known more commonly as Advil, Aleve, Midol, and Motrin. These drugs that commonly have ads on television telling us they are safe and effective to take daily for aches and pains. Drugs that are seemingly so common we have this sense of security and safety in using them and forget they have significant side effects. These are non-selective cyclooxygenase inhibitors meaning they inhibit both C0x-1 and C0x-2. For many years we have understood that long term use of NSAID’s can result in kidney damage but the heart health risks are new. Especially the knowledge that the risk for heart attack goes up as soon as the first week we use it.
Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke are the top causes of death world wide. It is important to understand the things eat or take or lifestyle choice we can make which can increase our risk for any illness or disease. This is especially true for easily modifiable things like relying on a drug to manage pain. The easy answer to manage aches and pains is taking an NSAID but what does taking that NSAID do to your health and wellness? What kind of quality of life will you lead as you age if you continue to mask your aches and pains with a drug? According to this study using an NSAID might shorten your lifespan with a heart attack. There are better answers for aches and pains than drugs. What we can offer patients takes them far past their pain and loss of function to give them a better future without relying on drugs, even drugs as simple as ibuprofen and naproxen.