Painkillers and stroke risk factors

Stroke and Heart Attack are kindred spirits, cousins you might say. Both represent in the main diseases of the blood vessels. Thus it is no coincidence that the risk factors for heart attack are similar to the the risk factors for stroke.

Several of the relatively new "wonder" anti-inflammatory drugs (Cox-2 inhibitors), such as Vioxx and Bextra, used in the treatment of arthritis have been withdrawn from the market because they have been linked to an increased risk of heart attack. Do they also increase the risk of stroke? PFIZER BEXTRA fraud... $2.3 billion settlement. More recent studies have also raised concerns about possible heart risks from some of the older over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen (Motrin and other brand names) and diclofenac (Voltaren), particularly when given by injection. Do they too also represent an increased risk factor for stroke?[2]


Research done at the National Taiwan University Hospital examined the data of 38 000 people who suffered a stroke in 2006. The study found that the use of any NSAID (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) was associated with an increased stroke risk from 20%-90% for most oral NSAIDS and a 260% increase for oral Ketorolac.

The absolute risk is quite small.

In people free from the major stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, pre-existing heart disease, smoking, diabetes and raised cholesterol, the absolute risk is really quite small.

For example, people in their 50's without these risk factors have only a 1-3% chance of having a stroke in the next ten years. Even if this risk was doubled, it would remain relatively low.

However, in high risk patients these other risk factors for stroke start to become very significant. Have you had a stent fitted, or passed out when turning your head? Angina or a TIA (Temporary Ischemic Attack)? Has your blood sugar ever been raised, has your doctor ever recommended blood pressure medication, or blood thinners?

"These latest findings suggest that the concern (about NSAIDs and the increased risk of heart attack) may also extend to the risk of stroke," said Dr Elliott Antman, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Limiting use of NSAIDS is nevertheless a good idea," said Antman, "and especially important for people with established heart disease or its risk factors, such as high blood pressure."

"The bottom line is that even common over-the-counter medications are "real drugs that do have risks. People should not continue to take NSAIDs beyond the period of time recommended on the label without talking with their doctor first."

Prof Elliott Antman

Cutting the risk of having a stroke

Most of us can handle the thought of pain as we age, but disablement and loss of independence are another matter. Stroke may mean loss of the ability to speak, to walk, to write, to care for yourself.

Taking these risk factors for stroke for granted is really not an option. Do you have any of these?

High blood pressure

Whilst Chiropractors in the main encourage their patients to consider alternatives like weight loss and exercise before taking drugs, I think there is almost universal agreement that blood pressure medication is one of the non-negotiables if you have high blood pressure.


There is so much overwhelming evidence that people who walk have lower cholesterol, their blood sugar behaves better, their creaking arthritic joints give less pain, they're less depressed ... and it's just plain relaxing. Are you one of those who don't exercise and have no leisure time hobbies? You're at higher risk of both heart attack and stroke. More back pain too...

Walking is a vital part in cutting stroke risk and getting off those anti-inflammatory drugs that are a significant part of the stroke risk factors associated with painkillers.


The battle is won between the ears. I want to see my grand-kids grow up.

Anti-inflammatory painkillers

Do your level best to avoid them, especially if you are in the high risk category for stroke.

Painkillers and stroke risk factors weighs research in an eminent medical journal.

  1. Risk of stroke associated with use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during acute respiratory infection episode.
  2. Increased Risk of Stroke Associated With Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

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