Over the past few years, the medical community has espoused the notion certain painkillers, specifically NSAIDs like Advil, are good for you heart.
This is why there’s a standing recommendation for people with potential risks for cardiovascular disease to take an Advil a day to help mitigate the chance of a heart attack,
Now researchers are saying this might not be the best idea, as there’s now an association between NSAIDs and the risk of developing some kinds of heart disease.
A recently published study shows that one NSAID, in particular, could possibly lead to some severe cardiovascular complications.
The drug is called diclofenac.
Danish researchers at the Aarhus University Hospital were the ones who made this discovery after investigating what happens to the heart of those who frequently take this common painkiller “which some rank as ‘the most widely used […] NSAID in the world.’”
According to their studies, the risk of developing some kind of cardiovascular issue was 50% higher for those who took diclofenac.
Analyzing the combined results of 252 individual studies featuring 6.3 million Danish people over a period of 20 years in 1996–2016. On average, the participants were aged 46–56.
During the study period, the researchers examined the cardiovascular risks of taking up diclofenac and compared them with the risks of starting paracetamol, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
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what are the risks?
After accounting for potentially confounding factors, the researchers found that within 30 days of taking up diclofenac, the rate of major cardiovascular problems — such as arrhythmia, ischemic stroke, heart failure, and heart attack — was much higher compared with other NSAIDs.
Specifically, the risk of such adverse cardiovascular events was 50 percent higher among those who started taking diclofenac, compared with those who did not take it. Compared with taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, taking diclofenac raised cardiovascular risk by 20 percent.
Additionally, write the authors, “Diclofenac initiation […] increased the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding […] by approximately 4.5-fold compared with no initiation [and] 2.5-fold compared with initiation of ibuprofen or paracetamol.”
What’s even scarier is if a person who took diclofenac had a high risk of heart attack at the start of their course of diclofenac, then the higher their chance of developing heart issues in the future.
This led the researchers to comment “Diclofenac poses a cardiovascular health risk compared with non-use, paracetamol use, and use of other traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,” explain the authors.
It should be noted this study was only observational, so the researchers couldn’t absolutely conclude diclofenac was what caused the heart issues.
“Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs,” explain the authors, “may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects…considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs.”