(CBS News) Millions of Americans take ibuprofen or naproxen for pain relief. They are the go-to drugs for headaches, pulled muscles, arthritis and menstrual cramps.
New findings suggest those common painkillers, called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, increase the risk of heart attack or stroke risk if taken in high doses. Brands like Motrin and Advil contain these drugs.
In 2004, Vioxx and Bextra were found to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and they were pulled from the market.
Dr. Tara Narula, associate director of Lenox Hill Hospital's cardiac care unit, told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" that the people who have to worry are those who use these drugs more than the recommended over-the-counter dose. Consumers with chronic diseases such as osteo-arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis should be careful.
The labels warn about overuse, but a new study quantifies the actual risk.
"The latest research looked at several hundred thousand patients, 300,000, and what they found is that if 1,000 patients take it for a year, three are at risk for having a heart attack, one of which can be fatal," said Narula. "So these medications taken in high doses can be exactly as risky and dangerous as those removed from the market."
Narula said that short-term use of NSAIDs should be fine as it is actually overusing the drugs that is a problem.
However, there are also a few other pain relievers that can be safer. Acetaminophen, which is the drug in Tylenol, as well as opium-based drugs, such as morphine, might be good options depending on what you're treating. Each of these drugs has its own set of side effects, so before taking any of these drugs, it is important to consult with your doctor.
For Dr. Tara Narula's full interview, watch the video in the player above.