Reduce NSAIDs: Strategies for Osteoarthritis

Senior couple relaxing by the sea on sunny day.

Research: NSAIDs Linked to Cardiovascular Disease

If you suffer from osteoarthritis, some days may require a little extra pain relief just to get through your usual tasks. But there are certain pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medications you want to avoid if you don’t want to increase your chance of developing another serious health condition. According to new research, using a common over-the-counter drug might make you a candidate for heart disease.The study, which took place at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, found that in people with osteoarthritis, taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) raises the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and having a stroke. (1) These results are based on an investigation that included 7,743 men and women with osteoarthritis and 23,229 individuals without the condition.

A graphic displaying a healthy joint, a joint with osteoarthritis, and a joint with rheumatoid arthritis.

After analyzing the data based on NSAID use and medical records, the researchers determined that those with osteoarthritis who take NSAIDs are 23 percent more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their peers who do not have osteoarthritis. And that was not the only elevated risk for osteoarthritis sufferers. They were also found to face a 42 percent increased risk of congestive heart failure, a 17 percent increased risk of ischemic heart disease, and a 14 percent increased risk of stroke.

The Effect of NSAIDs on Heart Disease

A person using a watch to track their heart rate.

The investigators suggest that the reason for the significant increases in heart-related problems among those with osteoarthritis is due to the frequent use of NSAIDs for pain relief. Studies have shown that NSAIDs are associated with a greater likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. And the risk is highest in individuals who take these drugs the most often to combat the chronic pain of osteoarthritis.

NSAIDs, which include both prescription and over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, affect enzymes in the blood that encourage clotting. This raises the risk of heart disease and stroke even in people who have no history of cardiac problems. Higher doses and longer usage of NSAIDs carry the most risk, but cardiovascular issues can arise within just a few weeks of taking these drugs.

Natural Pain Relief Options for Osteoarthritis

Anti-inflammatory foods to reduce inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.

The good news is that there are plenty of options for managing osteoarthritis that do not involve taking NSAIDs or any other pharmaceutical medication. Here are some natural treatments you might want to try:

  • Cut back on sugar and unhealthy fats. Research has found these two dietary components to be associated with osteoporosis even when excess weight is not an issue.
  • Supplement with avocado soybean unsaponifiable. These vegetable extracts are helpful in preventing inflammation from developing, protecting synovial cells in the joints from damage, and may even assist in the regeneration of healthy connective tissue.
  • Include more broccoli in your diet. Broccoli is a good source of sulforaphane, which has been shown to prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis. Take S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) daily. SAM-e is an effective pain reliever with anti-inflammatory properties, making it ideal as an osteoarthritis treatment. What’s more, it is also associated with the stimulation of cartilage growth and improvements in mobility.
  • Go for a series of acupuncture sessions. This modality of traditional Chinese medicine has been found to alleviate osteoarthritis pain, with the greatest levels of success in those who strongly believe it will work.
  • Increase your intake of ginger. A potent anti-inflammatory, ginger can achieve the same degree of symptom relief as an NSAID for hip and knee pain due to osteoarthritis, but without any side effects.
Material originally published at Copyright © 1999-2018. Baseline of Health® Foundation Used by permission of the Baseline of Health® Foundation. All rights reserved worldwide.
Jon Barron Health Expert

Jon Barron is the founder of the Baseline of Health® Foundation, whose website attracts millions of visitors worldwide so people can learn about health and nutrition for free. He has lectured internationally and has been featured on many regional and syndicated media programs as an expert in disease prevention, anti-aging, and nutrition.


↑1. Atiquzzaman, Mohammad; et al. “Role of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) in the Association Between Osteoarthritis and Cardiovascular Diseases: A Longitudinal Study.” Arthritis & Rheumatology. 6 August 2019. Accessed 11 August 2019.

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