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NSAIDs and Risks for Your Heart

NSAIDs, used to treat pain and inflammation, can increase your risk for both stroke and heart attack. The FDA has warned about this increased risk since the early 2000s. However, taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication to treat a specific ailment for a short period of time should not create an extreme risk. Extended use can be dangerous, so we recommended that you take the smallest amount necessary for the shortest period of time possible.

Research has not yet confirmed why this heart risk exists, but it is believed to be connected to how NSAIDs may impact enzymes in the body that affect clotting.

Speak to your cardiologist about appropriate NSAID use.

What NSAID Medications Should You Look Out For?

NSAIDs can be found in over the counter forms as well as prescription strength. Common medications are those with ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, diclofenac sodium, and celecoxib. Name brands include Advil, IB, Motrin, Naproxen, Aleve, Anaprox, Voltaren, Solaraze, and Celebrex. It is not known if certain NSAIDs have a greater impact on heart health than others, though some research shows that aspirin, which is an NSAID, does not appear to cause an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

What if My Heart Attack or Stroke Risk is Already Increased?

As someone with cardiovascular disease, your stroke and heart attack risk may already be higher than someone without. However, even people without a diagnosed cardiovascular disease may increase their risk for stroke and heart attack by taking NSAIDs.

What Are the Alternatives to NSAIDs?

 For medication alternatives to alleviate pain, your doctor may recommend non-NSAIDs options like acetaminophen that will not increase stroke and heart attack risk.

Most commonly, NSAIDs are utilized to treat joint and muscle pain. To decrease the need for NSAIDS, alternatives can be used such as hot or cold therapy and taking advantage of physical therapy, when appropriate. Focusing on treating the underlying cause of pain versus targeting the pain and inflammation through medication may allow you to avoid long term NSAID use.

Discuss Your Risk with Your Providers

If a chronic condition has you taking NSAIDs for an extended time, discuss the risks with your healthcare provider. If you suffer with heart disease, make an appointment with your cardiologist to discuss your stroke and heart attack risk and how NSAID use might impact that risk.

If at any time you experience symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, regardless of your NSAID use, contact 911 to seek emergency medical attention.

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