Heart Health

Should You Stop Taking Ibuprofen?

If you have a sore back or a headache, what is the first thing you do? If you are like many people, you head to your medicine cabinet and break out the Advil. Ibuprofen, the generic name for Advil, is a powerful antidote to pain. It is available over the counter in 200 milligram doses, and is frequently prescribed in higher doses by physicians.

Use of ibuprofen has become so widespread that few of us, even few doctors, question whether it is safe to use. In addition to its popularity, the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use as an over-the-counter medicine seems to attest to its safety.

However, research has raised significant safety issues with the drug. One of the most concerning issues is its potential for cardiovascular damage.

In 2005, the FDA issued a warning for ibuprofen. The agency said research has found ibuprofen substantially raises a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. The longer you use ibuprofen, the greater the risk. In 2015, the FDA took an unusual step and strengthened the warning and issued the following statements:

1. Even with short term use of ibuprofen, a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke increases significantly.

2. This risk increases the longer an individual uses the drug.

3. While an existing cardiovascular condition increases your risk, you do not need to have an existing condition to have a heart attack or stroke.

4. People over 40 are at particular risk, as that is the age at which heart disease begins to skyrocket.

Alternative health practitioners often accuse the FDA of being careless in approving medications, so the fact the agency is calling out ibuprofen is significant. The biggest problem with over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, or others like acetaminophen, is that people figure if they are FDA-approved, they must be safe. If a medicine is available only by prescription, people understand it must be used with care. If it’s available on the drugstore shelf, they regard it much more casually.

Fortunately, there is an excellent natural alternative for pain relief: turmeric.

Turmeric is a plant in the same family as ginger. It blocks inflammatory cytokines and enzymes, so unlike drugs like ibuprofen that reduce inflammation, turmeric actually prevents it. Turmeric works better than pharmaceuticals against some conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Turmeric is available at health food stores in capsules, and as a powder in the spice aisle. It is frequently used in cooking, particularly in Indian food, and can be used in tea and other beverages.