When your 'safe' painkiller packs a killer risk

Not too long ago, Vioxx was the biggest thing in medicine. Seemed like EVERYONE with pain was taking it.

You know what happened next.

This ugly drug (a.k.a. rofecoxib) turned out to increase the risk of heart attack so much that it was eventually yanked off the U.S. market.

Well, friend, maybe you never took this stuff. Maybe you did, but got off lucky and didn't face that risk.

But don't breathe a sigh or relief just yet.

It turns out other common NSAID painkillers -- including over-the-counter meds so popular you've almost certainly taken them yourself -- can ALSO increase the risk of a heart attack!

These are drugs millions turn to regularly for everything from minor injuries to chronic pain. You've heard the names and maybe have them in your home right now.

There's the naproxen found in Aleve, the ibuprofen used in both Advil and Motrin, and the prescription drug celecoxib, a.k.a. Celebrex.

All of these drugs and more can increase your risk of a heart attack -- and while the biggest risk comes with bigger doses, the study also found something truly frightening.

Even CASUAL use of the drugs at low doses could increase your risk of a heart attack!

Any dose at all -- even the LOWEST -- taken for between a day and a week can boost your odds of a heart attack by between 20 percent and 50 percent.

That's overall.

But different drugs carry different risks, especially if you take higher doses for longer periods.

That ibuprofen I just mentioned? It could boost the risk by as much as 75 percent at doses of 1,200 mg per day for 30 days.

That's six standard Advil capsules per day.

Naproxen can increase your risk by about 83 percent by taking 750 mg per day for between a week and a month.

And remember that Vioxx? Let's hope it doesn't make its rumored comeback... because the study finds it can double the heart risk

The study finds the risk is highest after about a month on the meds. After that, it doesn't get higher.

But it doesn't get lower, either.

So, whether you're taking pain pills for a week to ease a sprained ankle... or longer to help with chronic pain such as arthritis... you're putting it all on the line every time you pop those pills.

If you've got pain, it's time to get some real answers.

For short-term problems, try nondrug treatments including topical MSM.

And if you're having a battle with chronic pain in the knee, back, or anywhere else, consider proven therapies including spinal manipulation and acupuncture.

I'll have more on acupuncture -- and a surprising benefit -- coming up later today.

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