Most of us pop an OTC pain reliever from time to time for a rough headache, cramps, or sore musclesÃ¢â‚¬”and think nothing of it. But regularly taking high doses of NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can pose serious health risks, according to a recent large international study published in the journal The Lancet.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 600 trials. They found that people who take high, daily doses of NSAIDsÃ¢â‚¬”such as ibuprofen (like Motrin and Advil)Ã¢â‚¬”have a higher chance of heart attack or death from heart disease. The only NSAID that didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to increase patientsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ heart-related health risks were naproxens (like Aleve). However, naproxens and the other NSAIDs were associated with an increased risk of upper gastrointestinal complications, such as bleeding from ulcers.
Many of the people who take these very high doses on a daily basis are treating rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, says Marie R. Griffin, MD, MPH, a professor of preventive medicine and medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who wrote a commentary on the study, which was also published in The Lancet. If you take a standard dose of ibuprofen once or twice a month during your period or the day after a crazy-challenging cycling class, you should be fine: For young, healthy people, taking an OTC NSAID as recommended on the bottle for a short period of time is probably safe, she says.
If, however, you find youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re taking them on the regular, you should talk to your doctor about whether this is a good ideaÃ¢â‚¬”or youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be better off treating your pain in some other way. Ã¢â‚¬Å“TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really adjuncts for pain, and most people donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to be on these drugs every day,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Griffin.
photo: BW Folsom/Shutterstock More from Women's Health:
9 Natural Pain Relievers
Medical Myth Busters: Popping Pills
Relieve Pain: Does Acupuncture Work?