Though the heart risk associated with NSAIDs is well known, a new study indicates that using them after a previous heart attack greatly increases the risk of a second heart attack or fatal heart disease. This is in addition to the other negative side effects cause by this class of drugs.
NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are a group of drugs commonly used as painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications. It is a broad group of drugs, and there are several families of NSAIDs based on their chemical structure. They are also often used as a treatment for fever. These are often prescribed to people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, conditions that often affect the elderly, who are also at a higher risk of heart disease.
A common side effect of NSAIDs is elevated blood pressure (hypertension), and their link to heart disease is well documented. In a recent study by the Copenhagen University Hostpital Gentofte, that link has been further strengthened among people having previously suffered heart attacks.
Of the 100,000 patients studied, 54 percent of them filled a prescription for an NSAID. Those patients were 30 percent more likely to have another heart attack within a year of their first attack.
Even more alarming was the fact that patients prescribed NSAIDs after their first heart attack were 59 percent more likely to die within a year of the first heart attack when compared with patients not prescribed an anti-inflammatory. A full 63 percent died within five years. These numbers include deaths by any cause and aren’t limited to deaths by heart disease.
These dangerous adverse effects of NSAIDs are dose dependent, and they are far more likely to occur during the use of prescription NSAIDs. Occasional use of over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen aren’t linked to significantly higher risk of heart disease except when they are abused and taken in excessive dosages or used too often. Doctors recommend taking these medications sparingly, using only enough to relieve the symptoms of pain or inflammation.
Ironically, however, there is one NSAID that has been shown to drastically reduce the chances of heart disease: aspirin. Low-dose aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of a heart disease in people with a pre-existing condition or a high risk of developing heart disease. But it is an NSAID. For this reason, it’s important to consult your doctor or pharmacist if you’re already taking a prescription NSAID such as indomethacin, diclofenac, or celecoxib. The combination may not be healthy.
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