September 29, 2016
Is Ibuprofen Linked To Heart Failure? Everyday Painkillers Damned In New Report

Ibuprofen and other everyday painkillers could be linked to heart failure according to a new study published by BMJ Open.

Painkillers! Nearly every medicine cabinet in the civilized world is bursting at the seams with an array of over-the-counter medication capable of combating all the ills, aches, pains, and niggles caused by the hustle and bustle and unrest and stress of modern life.

You've got a headache? Pop a pill! Oh your back hurts? Pop a pill! You're feeling stressed? Pop a pill! You need a lift? Pop a pill!

We've been casually popping pills and insulating ourselves in a comfortably numb cocoon of chemical bliss for so long, taking painkillers has become as routine as the morning cup of coffee.

Well guess what? The bubble is about to burst. You know those friendly little pills called Ibuprofen that take away the pain and help you maintain. It appears they could be responsible for increasing your risk of heart failure up to 20 percent.

And it's not just ibuprofen that's been linked to heart failure. The entire family of painkillers known as Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), which ibuprofen is but a member, are on the hit list of the new study published in the journal BMJ Open. A study which involved the clinical testing of ten million patients.

The report concludes that patients who regularly take ibuprofen and other NSAIDs are 20 percent more likely to develop heart failure.

Heart failure occurs when the muscle becomes too weak to pump blood around the body. It results in extreme fatigue, breathlessness, and swelling of the ankles and legs.

NSAIDs are usually prescribed to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and quell fever, and nearly everyone over a certain age has taken one at some point in their lives.

So exactly why is ibuprofen and other NSAIDs responsible for heart failure? Here's the science part.

Are painkillers killing us? [Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images]

Research suggests that long-term use of NSAIDs triggers a series of chemical reactions in the body which place undue strain on the heart. It indicates that people who have taken NSAIDs daily for a year or more have almost doubled their risk of suffering from heart failure.

The review, in the British Medical Journal, said, "The risk of hospital admission for heart failure associated with current use of NSAIDs appears to vary between individual drugs. Risk of admission is doubled for some used at very high doses."

Although NSAIDs are commonly taken on a daily basis by the elderly for chronic conditions such as arthritis and other muscular pain, the lead author of the report, Giovanni Corrao, from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, stressed the problems arise because ibuprofen and other painkillers are being "inappropriately overused."

Medical director of the British Heart Foundation professor Peter Weissberg explained when it comes to NSAIDs it should be a case of "lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time."

"Since heart and joint problems often coexist, particularly in the elderly, this study serves as a reminder to doctors to consider carefully how they prescribe NSAIDs. And to patients, that they should only take the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time.

"They should discuss their treatment with their GP if they have any concerns. 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."

However, for those who take NSAIDs on an occasional basis and have no previous risk of heart attacks, the risk, according to Dr Tim Chico, an expert in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sheffield, is low.
"Heart failure is caused by a wide range of conditions including blood pressure, heart attacks, drinking too much alcohol and obesity.

"It seems unlikely that NSAIDs would cause problems in people with otherwise healthy hearts, but they may unmask heart failure due to these other causes."

[Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images]

[Featured Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images]