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Painkillers Linked to Heart Attack Risk, Study Says

Common over-the-counter headache remedies are associated with a 20 to 50 percent elevated risk of heart attack.

Everyday painkillers such as ibuprofen, diclofenac, celecoxibm and naproxen have been linked to a heightened risk of heart attack according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center.

These painkillers – doctors call them  nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs – are available in over-the-counter dosages as well as in higher-dose prescription form. They are commonly used to relieve pain or fever from the flu, headaches, muscle strain, and menstrual cramps. They are among the most widely used pain relievers in the United States and around the world.

"We found that all common NSAIDs shared a heightened risk of heart attack," said Dr. Michèle Bally, the University of Montreal Hospital epidemiologist who led the research. The researchers found that people who take NSAIDs are 20 percent to 50 percent more likely to experience a heart attack regardless of the dosage or how long the person took the medication.

Researchers caution that their observations demonstrate a correlation between NSAID use and heart attacks, but do not prove that NSAIDs cause heart attacks.

The World Health Organization says that cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death around the world, with 80 percent of deaths in this category a result of heart attacks and strokes. About 735,000 Americans have heart attacks each year.