NSAIDs increase stroke risk 28 to 86 percent
You may recall I touched on the dangers of NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, a few weeks ago. But a recent study makes stomach-bleeding look like a walk in the park. In fact, researchers found that healthy men and women who take an NSAID -- even just for two weeks -- significantly increase their stroke risk.
For the study, Danish and U.S. researchers looked at medical records for the entire population of Denmark. They excluded anyone admitted to the hospital within the past five years. They also excluded anyone who had taken prescription medicine for more than two years.
This left the researchers with a pool of about 500,000 healthy men and women. Next, the team followed these folks between the years 1997 and 2005. During those eight years, researchers found that about 45 percent of these healthy folks took an NSAID or other prescription med. Then, the team cross-referenced this list against the names of people who either died or entered the hospital due to a stroke.
They found a disturbing amount of crossover. Men and women who took an NSAID raised their stroke risk anywhere from 28 to 86 percent. Here's the breakdown by drug:
NSAID Increase in stroke risk
Ibuprofen 28 percent
Naproxen 35 percent
Celecoxib 69 percent
Diclofenac 86 percent
First off, I hope you noticed that even over-the-counter NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen increased stroke risk by about a third. That's nothing to sneeze at, especially when you consider that most men and women who died of stroke had only been taking an NSAID for two weeks or less. Plus, research showed that risk skyrocketed to 90 percent if a person took more than 200 mg of ibuprofen.
Yet look at the stats for celecoxib (marketed as Celebrex). Celecoxib is also an NSAID yet it works by blocking cyclooxygenase-2 (or COX-2), an enzyme that sends pain messages. (NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, on the other hand, block COX- 2 and COX-1 enzymes).
Researchers found that men and women who took celecoxib raised their stroke risk by a staggering 69 percent. That's very bad news indeed when you consider Celebrex is one of the best-selling drugs in America!
The worst of the bunch by far -- diclofenac -- increased stroke risk by 86 percent. Plus, if a person took more than 100 mg of diclofenac, a commonly prescribed dosage, their stroke risk soared to 100 percent.
Diclofenac is another type of NSAID commonly prescribed to treat pain. But, it's even given "off label" to cancer patients to help relieve general malaise. Just think of how many men and women out there may beat cancer but wind up dying of a stroke because they took diclofenac for a month during chemo.
Plus, let's not forget...researchers came up with these grim results using healthy individuals. What happens when someone with a serious illness takes diclofenac or ibuprofen?
Lead researcher: "It is an enormous effect."
Lead researcher Dr. Gunnar Gislason didn't mince words when he talked about the study. He said, "If half the population takes these drugs, even on an occasional basis, then this could be responsible for a 50% to 100% increase in stroke risk. It is an enormous effect."
Plus, he went on to warn, "First we found an increased risk of MI [heart attack] with NSAIDs. Now we are finding the same thing for stroke. This is very serious, as these drugs are very widely used, with many available over the counter. We need to get the message out to healthcare authorities that these drugs need to be regulated more carefully."
Well, don't count on that to happen anytime soon, Dr. Gislason. I have very little faith the FDA will do the right thing.
So you'll have to go it alone, folks. Beware of taking an NSAID for any length of time. And if you must take one, take the smallest dose possible and get off of it quickly.
On the other hand, if your pain is localized in one area, I would suggest trying a topical agent that contains a natural substance called DMSO that rubs out the pain on contact (like NorthStar Nutritionals' Soothanol X2).
About the author
Nationally acclaimed as America’s “Nutrition Physician,” Dr. Spreen has been helping people stay healthy and disease-free as a private doctor, published author, and noted researcher.
In addition to his role as a Senior Member of the prestigious Health Sciences Institute Advisory Panel in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Spreen also coaches diving at the international and Olympic levels. NorthStar Nutritionals is proud to have Dr. Spreen as our Chief Research Advisor.
Dr. Spreen also writes the Guide to Good Health.