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Pain Relievers Like Prescription-Strength Ibuprofen May Increase Risk Of Irregular Heartbeat

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Some pain relievers prescribed for patients suffering from arthritis and other conditions come with unwanted health risk.

NSAIDS

Findings of a new study on NSAIDs (prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers), which include prescription-strength naproxen and ibuprofen, suggest that people who take these drugs increase the risk of irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation by 18 percent.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation can increase a person's risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications.

"AFib increases a person's risk for stroke by four to five times compared with stroke risk for people who do not have AFib. Strokes caused by complications from AFib tend to be more severe than strokes with other underlying causes," the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Risk factors that can increase an individual's risk of developing irregular heartbeat include age, high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic conditions, drinking alcohol, obesity and having a family history of this condition.

Findings of the new study suggest that use of certain pain relievers is also associated with atrial fibrillation.

Link Between NSAIDs And Atrial Fibrillation

In the research reported in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Hui-Ju Tsa, from the National Health Research Institutes in Miaoli, Taiwan, and colleagues looked at the data of more than 57,000 people who were at least 45 years old to find a potential link between use of NSAIDs and the risk of atrial fibrillation.

The researchers found that individuals who were taking the nonselective class of NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen, naproxen, or meloxicam, had an 18 percent higher risk of having an irregular heartbeat.

Those who were using selective NSAIDs, which include celecoxib, etoricoxib, or rofecoxib, did not show any difference. Use of both the selective and nonselective NSAIDs, however, was linked to 30 percent elevated risk of atrial fibrillation.

Doctors Should Be Cautious When Prescribing NSAIDs

The researchers said that their findings do not mean that people should be afraid to take NSAID for occasional aches or pains. Nonetheless, they said that doctors should be cautious when prescribing these drugs to individuals who are most at risk for an irregular heartbeat.

"NSAID use was associated with an increased risk of AF occurrence among the participants included in our study cohort. Closely monitoring the adverse effects of NSAID treatment on the risk of AF will be important, particularly among individuals at high risk," the researchers wrote in their study, which was published online on March 20.

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