Painkillers come with a lot of risks, including high blood pressure—especially for women.
Research has found a connection between high blood pressure levels and non-aspirin painkillers. A report from the Harvard School of Medicine’s ongoing Nurses Health Study concluded that women are at increased risk for high blood pressure levels if they take daily doses of painkillers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin).
The Harvard study involved 5,123 women age 34 to 77, each of whom had healthy blood pressure at the onset. Here are the results:
- For women not taking painkillers, the risk of developing high blood pressure levels was about 1 to 3 percent a year.
- Women taking an average daily dose of more than 500 mg of acetaminophen (one extra-strength tablet) had a 93 to 99 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure levels within three years, compared to women taking less than 500 mg.
- Women taking more than 400 mg a day of over-the-counter NSAIDS (the equivalent of two ibuprofen) had a 60 to 78 percent increased risk of developing high blood pressure levels, compared to women taking less than 400 mg.
Get more of Dr. Sinatra's advice on Healthy Blood Pressure
NSAID Use Can Also Lead to Heart Attacks and Strokes
More recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a strong warning that NSAIDs can increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks. They based that warning on the review of both clinical trials and observational studies. In fact, manufacturers of NSAIDs are now required to warn users that "the risk of heart attack or stroke can occur as early as the first weeks of using an NSAID. Plus, the risk appears greater at higher doses." The FDA is also cautioning that these cardiac events can occur in those with or without heart disease, or other risk factors. In fact, taking NSAIDs within the first year after a heart attack is the riskiest.
Fortunately, there are several natural remedies that can help to relieve pain:
- MSM, an active form of sulfer, can help with joint and muscle pain—start with one gram daily, and slowly increase to 4-5 grams in divided doses with meals.
- Arnica works well as either a topical or sublingual treatment.
- For migraine headaches, I like a combination of magnesium (400-800 mg daily) and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) (100-200 mg daily).
Now it's your turn: Have you found a good natural remedy for pain?