Time Magazine is reporting that a Danish study has concluded that the use of commonly available over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, increases the chance of cardiac arrest by 31 percent. The study tracked 30,000 people who had arrested between 2001 and 2010. The study follows what is already known about this class of drugs, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, in that they enhance sodium retention, which thickens the blood and in turn raises the risk of cardiovascular disease.
A debate has resulted from the study about how to approach these readily available painkillers. Dr. Gunnar Gislason, professor of cardiology at Copenhagen University Hospital and the author of the survey, suggests that NSAIDs should not be sold in retail outlets where there are no pharmacists who can advise on their safe use. Dr. Christopher O’Connor, editor-in-chief of the American College of Cardiology journal JACC – Heart Failure, disagrees, noting that the vast majority of people who had heart failure as the result of using the painkillers were elderly or else had some preexisting heart condition. The young and healthy should be able to use NSAIDs in safety.
However, a consensus seems to be developing that people should try to restrict their daily dosage of NSAIDs to 500 mg of naproxen or 1,200 mg of ibuprofen per day. Furthermore, the painkillers in question should be approached with caution for people with pre-existing cardiovascular conditions. When in doubt, one should always consult with a primary care physician about the safe use of NSAIDs.
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