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Can common painkillers lead to a higher risk of stroke?


News is coming in of a link between common painkillers and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

For many people our age, the use of over the counter medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen is considered a normal step to deal with certain types of pain and injuries.

Now researchers from as far apart as Holland and Taiwan are releasing information from separate studies that indicate concern over these medications.

New research from the National Taiwan University Hospital has shown a link between risk of heart disease and people who are taking NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). NSAIDS are a group of painkillers that include the medications already mentions as well as prescription arthritis drugs COX-s inhibitors.

There has been some earlier concern over some of the drugs and two COX-2 inhibotrs were pulled from the market nearly ten years ago because of a possible link with an increased risk of heart attack.

The current study in Taiwan was extensive, looking at nearly 38,000 adults who had suffered a stroke in 2006. They then looked at the patients’ NSAID use in the previous month and found a definite link between the two. A pattern was found in patients both who were at risk of cardiovascular disease and those who were not.

The study also found there was a difference in the increased risk of anywhere between 20 and 90 percent, depending on the drug taken. Oral Ketorolac was linked to the greatest level of risk.

Commenting on this study and the possible link with cardiovascular disease, Dr Elliott Antman, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said concern may also extend to the risk of stroke.

Interesting, a Dutch study has recently also announced that people who take common painkillers such as ibuprofen are 76 per cent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. This is when there is a fault in the heart’s electrical system which creates an irregular (often too fast) beat, leading to shortness of brath and dizziness. This condition is said to be responsible for around 22,500 strokes a year in the UK.

This study was undertaken at the renowned Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam who monitored the heart health of 8,423 people aged 55 and over. Not only did they find that people who take NSAIDS had an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, but for people who had used the drugs within the previous four weeks, the risk rose to 84 per cent.

More work is being undertaken on both these studies and emphasis is being put on the fact that the research is not intended to scare people from taking needed medication, but to help ensure people treat over the counter medications with caution.

If you regularly take over the counter NSAIDS, it could well be worth talking to your doctor to ensure you have the very best advice possible.


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