At the first sign of a headache, most of us reach for the pain reliever (and the coffee, truth be told). But our pain relievers of choice may not be as harmless as we think, according to a new study published in a European academic journal. If your medicine cabinet contains non-steroidal anti-inflammataory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), you could be putting yourself at risk for a heart attack.
Researchers looked at nearly 30,000 Danish patients who'd had cardiac arrests between 2001 and 2010, and discovered that about a third of these patients had been taking ibuprofen or the Rx drug diclofenac (used to treat migraines and arthritis pain) a few weeks before their heart attacks. Diclofenac doubled a person's risk of a heart attack, while taking ibuprofen raised the chances by 31 percent, researchers discovered.
"The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs are not harmless," said one of the lead researchers, who added that people with any kind of cardiovascular disease shouldn't be popping these pain relievers. Plus, he continued, these drugs shouldn't be sold in supermarkets or convenience stores. "Over-the-counter NSAIDs should only be available at pharmacies, in limited quantities, and in low doses."
The doctors' recommendations: People should not take more than 1,200 mg of ibuprofen a day (that's six regular strength pills, or three extra-strength ones). In fact, it may be safer to switch to the pain reliever naproxen (Aleve).
If you suffer from headaches, talk to the doctor about the best pain reliever for you, especially if you're already at risk for high-blood pressure or heart disease.