Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. The most common type is osteoarthritis or “degenerative arthritis.” Often described as a “wear and tear” condition, it affects some 91 million Americans, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and recent research suggests that the responsible factor is use of pain-relief drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) as well as prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
The latest research, from Canada’s University of British Columbia, found that patients with osteoarthritis had a risk of congestive heart failure 42 percent higher than normal as well as a 17 percent increased risk for coronary heart disease and a 14 percent increased risk of stroke, compared to their non-arthritic peers. The investigators then surveyed information from Canadian databases to compare the health of 7,743 osteoarthritis patients with that of 23,229 healthy people of the same age, gender, socioeconomic status and body mass index. They also looked at such conditions as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, all of which are associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Results showed that people with osteoarthritis had a 23 percent higher than normal risk of developing cardiovascular disease. When the researchers calculated and cross-referenced the risk associated with taking NSAIDs, they determined that 41 percent of the association of osteoarthritis with cardiovascular disease was due to the use of these drugs. The increased risk of taking NSAIDs on congestive heart failure was determined to be 23 percent. It was much higher – 56 and 64 percent respectively – for ischemic heart disease and stroke. Because the study was observational, it did not prove cause and effect.
If you have osteoarthritis and have been relying on NSAIDs for pain relief, in view of these findings you may want to avoid them. Your physician may suggest alternatives. You can also try my recommendations for dealing with this common problem:
- Lose weight if you are overweight; it can alleviate excess mechanical stress on the affected joint(s).
- Avoid intense activities that injure or strain joints.
- Exercise. Strengthening surrounding muscles will support and protect joints, and physical activity helps improve and maintain joint mobility and aids weight-reduction efforts. Swimming, stationary cycling and light weight training are best; they put the least stress on joints.
I also suggest the following dietary changes and supplements:
- Eat salmon or other oily fish regularly.
- Look to other dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts or freshly ground flaxseed in your daily routine, or take supplements of fish oil.
- Regularly use ginger and turmeric and try supplements of turmeric (or curcumin).
- Eat generous amounts of organically grown vegetables and fruit and vegetables daily.
Here’s where you can find my recommendations for nutrients, botanicals and other compounds that you can take for joint health and osteoarthritis treatments.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Aslam H. Anis et al, “Role of Non‐Steroidal Anti‐Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) in the Association between Osteoarthritis and Cardiovascular Diseases: A Longitudinal Study,” Arthritis and Rheumatology, August 6, 2019. doi.org/10.1002/art.41027