How big a risk do Advil and Aleve pose for your heart?

How big a risk do Advil and Aleve pose for your heart?

Suffering from joint pain or a headache? Thinking of taking Advil or Aleve for relief?

Using prescription strength ibuprofen (Advil), naproxen (Aleve) and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs known as NSAIDs may raise the risk of heart failure, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy compared data from more than 10 million NSAID users in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and the UK. They studied 27 different types of NSAIDs and found that people currently using one of the painkillers were 19 percent more likely to be hospitalized for heart failure than those who had used the drugs in the past. In particular, ibuprofen, naproxen, diclofenac, indomethacin, ketorolac, nimesulide and piroxicam were correlated with higher risk of heart problems, and the higher the dose, the higher the risk.

“Our findings — which focused only on prescription NSAIDs – might apply to over-the-counter NSAIDs as well,” said study author Andrea Arfe in a news release. “Although over-the-counter NSAIDs are typically used at lower doses and for shorter durations, they are sometimes available at the same doses as prescription NSAIDs, and they may be inappropriately overused.”

Dr. Alan Brown, director of the division of cardiology at Advocate Heart Institute at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., says doctors have been concerned for some time about the impact of NSAIDs on the heart, but even if it’s not new information, it’s extremely important information. He advises:

  • If you need to take NSAIDs for an injury or joint issue, keep an eye on your blood pressure and take as few as possible for as little amount of time as possible.
  • If you are someone who has a tendency to retain fluid, or has high blood pressure, heart failure or kidney disease, use NSAIDs with great caution and only in consultation with your doctor.
  • Tylenol is a good alternative to NSAIDs.

“Always consult your physician if you have pain requiring any long-term use of an over-the-counter drug,” Dr. Brown says.

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  1. Doesn’t Tylenol cause liver damage?

  2. Very vague article… we have no idea what the sample consisted of in this study- were these people from all walks of life, of a certain age group, had other medical conditions factored in? There are many questions that have not been addressed. As someone who uses Advil for headaches once a week or so, do I have an increased risk? If so, was it quantified by this study? Is there such thing as a safe dose? You stated that the higher the dose the higher the risk, but we have no idea what dosing you are talking about! There is no example or result from the study, and we have no idea how long these people were studied either. You stated that people currently taking one of the drugs were 19% more likely to be hospitalized for heart failure… so what does this correlate to??? What percentage of the total sample had heart failure hospitalizations, and what percent of the total sample were currently/regularly consuming these OTC drugs? I don’t think this article gives enough information to make any kind of conclusion about whether or not you are putting yourself at risk by occasionally consuming one of these over-the-counter meds. And is Tylenol the only alternative? SM is right- numerous studies have shown that Tylenol taken regularly can also cause a host of health concerns. Next time, more research please.

  3. Yes, I agree with Emily.

    Is there more specific data on this issue?

    Thank you.

  4. Emily, my thoughts exactly!!! Don’t create a fear fear factor if none exists!

  5. Thanks Pat D. for posting the link! This article is very interesting. The research is huge, and contains so much more than what is presented here. I know a summary can only do so much to explain such a large study, so it’s great to see the article in full. I can see that this study and the results obtained applies to patients who are prescribed a daily dose of an NSAID. The mean average age of patients was 77 years old, and the article contains several useful tables, one of which provides various health conditions and lifestyle factors that may have impacted hospitalization results. So this study cannot be applied to folks who occasional use NSAIDS for pain/fever, just those who have or have had in the past an NSAID prescription regimen.

    According to the researchers’ pooled analysis, current users of any
    NSAID had a 20% higher risk of heart failure than past
    users, so this is where that statistic arises. For recent users of NSAIDS, there was no evidence that heart failure risk was associated with past use of NSAIDS. They also observed a statistically significantly higher risk of heart failure in association with current use of nine individual NSAIDs than with past use of any NSAIDs. These NSAIDs were ketorolac, etoricoxib, indomethacin, rofecoxib, piroxicam, diclofenac, ibuprofen, nimesulide, and naproxen. Check out the link if you know anyone taking NSAIDS daily- may be useful for them!

  6. I am 55 Years old. I have noticed that I after a couple of hours of taking Alive, my blood pressure stays low however, my Pulse raises for about that 113. And is every time that I take alive.

  7. Everytime I take Aleve my blood pressure rises to, I believe, dangerous levels and includes chest pains on my left side. When this happens, It takes about a week for my body to recover from the time I stop taking the medication.

  8. I would like to know why specifically these medications are bad for the heart. What is it that they do to the body to have these effects, please? Tylenol is bad for the liver, so it seems there is no safe painkiller? I think I’ll go back to Aspirin, as that is known only to thin the blood which is not necessarily a bad thing, and possibly cause stomach problems.

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About the Author

Adam Mesirow
Adam Mesirow

Adam Mesirow, health enews managing editor, is media relations director of Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. Securing high-profile media placements for more than a decade, he loves to tell a good story. Adam earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. He lives in Chicago and enjoys playing sports, reading TIME magazine and a little nonsense now and then.