Ibuprofen Side Effects on the Heart

Millions of people throughout the world commonly take ibuprofen for minor aches and pains without thinking about the side effects the medication can have on the heart. In light of recent research regarding the risks of ibuprofen, people should carefully weigh the risks and benefits associated with taking ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory pain medications.

Generic ibuprofen pills. (Image: BWFolsom/iStock/Getty Images)

How Ibuprofen Affects the Heart

Ibuprofen belongs to a class of drugs that inhibit a group of enzymes called cyclooxygenase (COX). These COX enzymes are involved in regulating blood flow by affecting how platelets in the blood interact with the walls of blood vessels. Through the complex action of many different enzymes, the ability of blood to flow through blood vessels is balanced against the ability of blood to clot and stop flowing in response to a cut. Researchers think that ibuprofen and other NSAIDs alter this balance, leading to increased blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular events.

Risks for People Wth Cardiovasular Disease

Numerous studies have linked ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack and stroke, reports MedlinePlus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that people diagnosed with heart conditions and those undergoing heart surgery avoid taking ibuprofen and other NSAIDs.

Risks for Healthy People

A study published in the June 2010 edition of "Circulation," the journal of the American Heath Association, was the first to examine the effect of ibuprofen on the cardiovascular health of otherwise healthy people. The researchers found an increased risk of cardiovascular death in healthy people taking ibuprofen to relieve minor aches and pains. No such risks were found for naproxen, which is another type of NSAID.

Indirect Cardiovasular Risks

Studies have found that ibuprofen inhibits the ability of aspirin to thin the blood. As a result, ibuprofen can indirectly increase the risk of heart attack by counteracting the protective benefits of aspirin. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends taking aspirin at least 30 minutes before or eight hours after ibuprofen to avoid this interaction.

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