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Arthritis Tied to Heart Disease. Pain Relievers May Be to Blame.

Osteoarthritis has been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, and a new study suggests that a large part of the risk comes from the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, or NSAIDs. Such drugs include ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), as well as a variety of prescription NSAIDs.

Researchers used Canadian health databases to match 7,743 osteoarthritis patients with 23,229 healthy controls who rarely or never used NSAIDs. The study is in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Confirming trends described in previous studies, they found that compared with healthy people, those with osteoarthritis had a 42 percent increased risk for congestive heart failure, a 17 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease, and a 14 percent increased risk for stroke.

After controlling for socioeconomic status, body mass index, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and other health factors, they calculated that 41 percent of the increased risk for any cardiovascular event was attributable to the use of NSAIDs.

The researchers acknowledge that the study is observational and does not prove cause and effect.

The lead author, Aslam H. Anis, a professor of health economics at the University of British Columbia, said that there are alternative medicines that can be used for the pain of osteoarthritis. “Have a conversation with your physician” about risks and benefits, he said. “Sometimes the treatment is worse than the disease.”


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