I’ve been blogging on the risks of NSAIDs for years. It’s amazing that every patient I tell about the cardiac risks of these drugs seems to be completely surprised, like telling someone a spaceship just parked itself above the city. Now a new study shows a new but related risk. Motrin and similar drugs significantly increase the risk of your heart stopping!
Cardiac arrest and a heart attack are two different things. In a heart attack, something, like a clot or a piece of ruptured plaque that breaks loose from an artery, blocks the blood supply to a section of the heart. While permanent damage can be done to that area, the person usually remains conscious because the heart is still pumping blood throughout the body. In cardiac arrest, the heart literally just stops beating completely, so no blood is being pumped through the body or to the brain. Unless the heart can be restarted with a defibrillator, the person dies a very quick death.
Before this specific Motrin cardiac arrest risk finding, several warnings have been put out regarding the use of NSAIDS and cardiac risk, heart attack risk, and stroke risk over time. We’ve been very vocal about their use because patients who deal with pain are the populations most likely to use NSAIDS because of their anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. We make it clear to patients receiving treatment not to use them as in addition to the above risks, studies have found that NSAIDs, like Celebrex, contribute to the production of bad joint chemicals and limit the production of good ones.
The new study was performed in Denmark and included almost 29,000 subjects who had a cardiac arrest, not in a hospital, between 2001 to 2010. In order to identify what factors had posed additional risk, data from these patients was compared to a larger control group with similar demographics and known cardiac risk factors. The results were that two of the NSAIDS tested raised cardiac risk: Ibubrofen, the most commonly used NSAID in the US raised cardiac risk by 31%, and Voltaren, used more commonly in Europe, raised cardiac risk by 50%. Perhaps more concerning was the fact that long-term use wasn’t necessary for cardiac arrest to occur. Use for as short as a week had caused the problem in some patients.
Joint pain is a complex problem, and unfortunately many of the medications to treat the issue bring unacceptable risks. In addition to cardiac risk, Aleve causes the production of defective cartilage and NSAIDs in general are associated with injury to the GI tract. Thankfully, there are several safe alternatives to help with pain and inflammation. Curcumin with BioPerine has been shown in many studies to be very effective for pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin are as good as Celebrex for inflammation, and good-quality fish oil can turn bad inflammation into healing. If safe supplements are not enough, regenerative-medicine treatments that use your own stem cells and platelets to help joints rather than replace them are available.
The upshot? I just watched an Advil commercial on TV, showing lots of very active young and middle-aged people climbing mountains and running. Somehow I didn’t see a single warning about heart attack risk or anything else? This stuff is not safe, boys and girls! So walk past the NSAID aisle; avoid Motrin, Advil, Aleve; and consider taking safe supplements for joint pain and inflammation. Or, alternatively, keep popping this stuff to be able to get that last ski run in or to hit it at the gym, but just make sure your life insurance is paid up and your affairs are in order!
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About the Author
Christopher J. Centeno, M.D. is an international expert and specialist in regenerative medicine and the clinical use of mesenchymal stem cells in orthopedics. He is board certified in physical medicine as well as rehabilitation and in pain management through The American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.…