For decades, doctors have known that people with arthritis are more likely to suffer heart attacks and heart failure.
Their risk for heart disease is 23% higher than the general population. Their risk for heart failure is 42% greater. And they face a significantly higher chance of having a stroke, too.1
Now, a new study shows that it’s not arthritis that is causing the heightened risk. It’s the treatment.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia analyzed the health data of 8,000 people with osteoarthritis. Over 21 million Americans suffer from it. It is the most common form of arthritis.2
The scientists compared cardiovascular complications for those who were taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to those who were not.
Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve). Prescription ones include celecoxib (Celebrex) and diclofenac (Cambia, Voltaren). They are mainstream medicine’s first-line treatment for osteoarthritis.3
The researchers found that NSAIDs were to blame for:
- 68% of the increased risk of heart disease among osteoarthritis patients.
- 45% of the increased risk of heart failure.
- 90% of the increased risk for stroke.
Dr. Aslam Anis is a professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. He was the study author.
“We find ourselves in the situation where the treatment can be worse than the disease,” he said.4
“Our results indicate that osteoarthritis is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and suggest a substantial proportion of the increased risk is due to the use of NSAIDs,” said Dr. Anis. “This is highly relevant because NSAIDs are some of the most commonly used drugs to manage pain in patients with osteoarthritis.”
3 Natural and Safe Arthritis Pain Relievers
Some people with arthritis take acetaminophen (Tylenol). It is not an NSAID. But the side effects can be even worse. It can lead to liver and kidney disease. In fact, the FDA has twice tried to limit the amount of acetaminophen in one tablet to help prevent these potentially grave conditions.5
There are natural pain relievers that can be substituted for NSAIDs or acetaminophen. And they won’t threaten your heart, liver, or kidneys.
Fish oil. A British study found that the essential fatty acids in fish oil reduce joint inflammation. This lessens pain. The researchers recommended 1-1/2 grams of fish oil a day.6
Vitamin K. The researchers found that foods rich in vitamin K help prevent osteoarthritis and control pain from it. The nutrient helps promote bone growth and repair.
Good sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables such as collards, leaf lettuce, kale, mustard greens, parsley, romaine lettuce, and spinach.
You can also get vitamin K through supplements. But don’t take them if you are on the prescription blood thinner warfarin (Coumadin). Vitamin K can decrease its effectiveness.7
Willow bark. It not only treats osteoarthritis, it can also relieve headache, back pain, menstrual cramps, fever, flu, and tendonitis. Take 1-3 grams.
And don’t forget exercise. For decades, doctors warned arthritis sufferers to rest their aching joints. But in recent years, multiple studies have found that exercise reduces pain and improves joint movement.
Yoga, Pilates, and gentle stretching are all good first steps. Low impact exercise like walking, swimming, and cycling can help you lose weight, which reduces stress on the joints. Resistance training increases the support muscles give to joints.8
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