An international team conducted a study in Canada and tested 5 drugs that are known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). 

According to The Guardian, their study found there was greater than 90% probability that all the NSAIDs they tested were associated with a heightened risk of heart attack. 

“The overall odds of having a heart attack were about 20 percent to 50 percent greater if using NSAIDs compared with not using the drugs, although it varied for the individual drugs assessed,” reporter Haroon Siddique wrote. 

What are NSAIDs? 

Better Health says NSAIDs are commonly used to manage the pain and inflammation (swelling and redness) associated with some types of arthritis (such as rheumatoid arthritis) and other musculoskeletal disorders. 

“NSAIDs are also used to treat non-inflammatory conditions such as migraine, period pain and postoperative pain, and to reduce fever,” it published. 

Better Health lists the common painkillers used in Australia including: 

  •  Aspirin (such as Disprin) 
  •  Ibuprofen (such as Nurofen) 
  •  Naproxen (such as Naprosyn) 
  •  Diclofenac (such as Voltaren) 
  •  Celecoxib (such as Celebrex). 

Should I stop taking them? 

The researchers haven’t suggested we should stop taking anti-inflammatory drugs altogether, rather the use of them should be monitored more carefully. 

Study leader Professor Gunnar Gislason, from the University of Copenhagen, told the Huffington Post, “The findings are a stark reminder that NSAIDs are not harmless,” 

“Both commonly used drugs, Diclofenac and Ibuforen, were associated with significantly increased risk of cardiac arrest,” he said. 

“Patients with cardiovascular disease or who have other cardiovascular risk factors should probably avoid taking these drugs,” says Professor Gislason. 

“I don’t think these drugs should be sold in supermarkets or petrol stations. This is due to the fact that there is no professional advice on how to use them,” he said. 

“Over-the-counter NSAIDs should only be available at pharmacies, in limited quantities and in low doses.” 

 What are the cardiovascular risk factors? 

Heart Research Australia details the risk factors of heart disease on its website and breaks them into two categories. 

Risks you can control: 

  •  Smoking 
  •  Cholesterol 
  •  High blood pressure 
  •  Being inactive 
  •  Diabetes 
  •  Being overweight 
  •  An unhealthy diet. 

Risks you can’t control: 

  •  Age: As you get older, your risk of heart disease increases. 
  •  Gender: Men are at higher risk of heart disease (Women’s risk grows and may be equal to men after menopause). 
  •  Ethnic background: People of some origins have higher risk of cardiovascular disease (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have more risk). 
  •  Family history of cardiovascular disease. 

The Health Foundation, Diabetes Australia, the Stroke Foundation and Kidney Health Australia developed a free online risk calculator. The online calculator can be used to get an idea of your level of risk, however your results will then need to be interpreted by a medical professional to be accurate. 

You can start by booking an appointment with your GP if you’re concerned about your use of common pain killers or heart health. 

If it’s after hours and your usual doctor is unavailable then you can see a House Call Doctor. Our qualified GPs are available to treat you at home from 6pm to 8am Monday to Friday. They are also available from 12pm on Saturday and all day Sunday. You can make a booking online, via the free mobile app or by calling 13 55 66. Visit the Consulting Hours section of our website for more information.