Some prescription pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen may be linked to irregular heartbeat, a condition that can increase your risk of stroke and heart failure.
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That's according to new research recently approved for publication in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology for which scientists examined more than 57,000 people in Taiwan older than age 45 from 2000, 2005 and 2010.
To determine whether or not there was an association between the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs — or NSAIDS — and the risk of irregular heartbeat (also known as atrial fibrillation), researchers compared national data sets of those with the condition with someone without AF of similar age, sex and medical conditions.
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They found that participants who used NSAIDS had a significantly elevated risk of the condition.
Non-selective NSAIDS, drugs that inhibit both types of the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme, were associated with an 18 percent increased odds for having AF. Such drugs include common painkillers like aspirin, diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen.
Selective NSAIDs, which only inhibit the COX-2 enzyme meant to relieve fever, pain and inflammation, showed no difference. Examples of selective NSAIDs include celebrex and mobic.
Combining both selective and non-selective NSAIDs, according to the researchers, showed a 30 percent increase in odds for having the condition.
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“Based on the findings from this study, benefits and risks of NSAID use should be carefully evaluated when delivered in clinical practice," senior author Dr. Hui-Ju Tsai of the National Health Research Institutes said.
This isn't the first time common painkillers have been associated with low heart health. A study published in March 2017 found that the consumption of any kind of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen could increase the risk of heart attack by 31 percent.
"Allowing these drugs to be purchased without a prescription, and without any advice or restrictions, sends a message to the public that they must be safe," Gunnar H. Gislason, author of the study and professor of cardiology, said in a news release. "The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs are not harmless."
According to the Heart Rhythm Society, individuals with AF aren't always aware of their condition until they face complications. Some common risk factors for the condition, which is most prevalent among people older than 60 years of age, include diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, thyroid disease and other heart conditions.