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Could ibuprofen be bad for your heart? Here's the truth

by , 12 October 2015

So you've been popping ibuprofen for years to soothe all your aches and pains. Now, you hear that it could cause heart problems. So what should you do? Should you stop using it? Is it really bad for your heart? Here's the truth.

Ibuprofen is a commonly-used painkiller, but it can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack

Ibuprofen is a common drug to have on hand for everything from headaches and toothaches to joint pain, muscle soreness and menstrual cramps. That said, doctors have actually known for years that taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs)—including ibuprofen and naproxen—may increase risk of heart attack and stroke. 
 
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) added a boxed warning about this issue to prescription nonaspirin NSAID labels back in 2005.
 
However, the FDA recently conducted a review of new research on NSAIDs. Based on this review, we now know that taking NSAIDs may pose a risk for heart attack and stroke earlier than previously thought—even within the first few weeks of use. What’s more, the longer you rely on these drugs, the worse the risk may become. 
 
And if you take NSAIDs at higher dosages, you may also be more vulnerable. That’s why in July the FDA ordered drug manufacturers to beef up warning labels on Rx nonaspirin products, and will request that makers of over-the-counter non-aspirin products update the info on their labels, too.

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People with risk factors for heart disease are the most likely to have problems

People with heart disease or risk factors for heart disease are more likely to face problems when they take NSAIDs. But even those who don’t have heart disease or issues such as high blood pressure may be at a greater risk as well.
 

The bottom line: You can still take ibuprofen

You can still take ibuprofen, but be sure to stick to the smallest dose you need, and only take it for as long as you really have to. Acetaminophen does not have the same side effects, so consider it as an alternative—while being mindful of its own potential dangers; excessive doses can lead to liver problems.
 
And keep in mind that you can always start with non-drug options, like hot or cold packs or massage, to help ease your pain.
 

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