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NSAIDs and Heart Risk

Because NSAIDs can affect blood pressure and blood clotting, they can also put you at risk for heart problems and stroke if you use more than directed or for longer than directed. Generally, people who have risk factors for heart disease may be at greater risk for having serious cardiovascular problems, such as strokes and heart attacks, from NSAID use.

When it comes to choosing and using NSAIDs, Antman offers this advice: “Generally, your best option is to take the least risky drug, at the lowest dose you need to control your pain, for the shortest amount of time possible.”

How you choose the least risky drug for you may depend largely on your personal health risks.

“Since each person’s medical situation is different, you should talk with your doctor if you have any questions about taking NSAIDs,” says Joel Schiffenbauer, MD, deputy director of the Division of Nonprescription Clinical Evaluation at the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Although taking NSAIDs may increase the risk of heart problems, aspirin is given to many heart patients in low doses to help protect against heart attack and stroke. If you are taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack, talk to your doctor before taking another NSAID at the same time. It may interfere with the beneficial effects of the aspirin.

NSAIDs can also increase blood pressure, particularly if you already have high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure or are taking medicine to lower blood pressure, talk to your doctor to see which OTC pain reliever is right for you.

NSAIDs and Stomach Problems

The most common side effect of NSAIDs is stomach problems, including upset stomach, nausea, and heartburn. Stomach ulcers and bleeding can also occur with long-term use. Your risk of having a stomach problem increases the more often you take NSAIDs and the longer you take them. Seniors are at a greater risk of stomach problems from NSAIDs.

To reduce your risk of problems with NSAIDs, try these tips:

  • Don’t drink alcohol. Drinking alcohol while you’re taking an NSAID increases your risk of bleeding.
  • Take NSAIDs with food and water.
  • If you have a history of stomach problems, ask your doctor about taking a drug that blocks stomach acid with the NSAID.

How we experience pain and the amount of pain relief we get from NSAIDs varies from person to person. When choosing pain relief medication, it’s most important to take the lowest dose that works for you and to take it as directed. And if your pain continues for more than a 10 days or isn’t controlled by the OTC NSAID, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor.

Choosing an OTC Pain Reliever

What you need to know to make a safe and effective choice.
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