Is it worth worrying about your ibuprofen usage?

Research into anti-inflammatory tablets has clarified that this medication is closely linked to heart attacks. The study which was conducted at the University of Montreal has received a huge amount of coverage, but should it concern you?

This research is reminder that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not harmless; although these drugs have already been linked to heart failure and strokes in the past, they are still sold all over the country in supermarkets where no professional advice is given on how to take the drugs correctly.

What did the research highlight?

The research explored health records of around eight million patients who had an average age of 77 and whether or not they had used NSAIDs, such as: ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.

People who had used NSAID were found to have a 19 per cent higher chance of being admitted to hospital for heart failure. However, many news outlets also failed to point out that drugs like diclofenac are more dangerous than ibuprofen which the articles seemed to be focused more heavily on.

How was the media coverage of the story?

A large quantity of the coverage failed to highlight how the correlation between anti-inflammatory medication and heart problems was already well known.

The story received a huge amount attention from various media outlets and tended to exaggerate the research which had been conducted. Here are some of the titles:

  • Ibuprofen WARNING: Regular usage for just ONE week ‘increases heart attack risk’
  • Common painkillers may raise risk of heart attack by 100%
  • Taking ibuprofen to treat pain ‘for just ONE DAY increases your risk of heart attack by half’

What was the view of experts?

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation stated in response to growing concerns about the consumption of NSAIDs that, “It has been known for some years now that such drugs need to be used with caution in patients with, or at high risk of, heart disease. This applies mostly to those who take them on a daily basis rather than only occasionally.”

Chief medical officer at the Australian Heart Foundation, Garry Jennings stated, “There is really no information which suggests that they can cause either a cardiac arrest or a heart attack out of the blue. I think that is very unlikely.”

The overuse of NSAIDs can lead to various complications such as: stomach ulcers, and liver and kidney problems. Jennings stated, “They’re not smarties, they’re serious medications.”

 

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So what should I do?

Researchers have highlighted how ibuprofen can still be taken, but consumers should stick to small doses and only take it for as long as it really has to be. It is also important to remember that you can always look for nondrug treatments, such as ice packs and muscle sprays for any inflammation which you may be facing.

 

Listen to more about the issue below, with interviews from various professionals questioned about some of the points above:

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