Could Frequent Acetaminophen Use Lead To Heart Problems?

According to the first author of a new study, using acetaminophen regularly at concentrations that are traditionally considered safe (about 500 mg per day, or the amount in one extra-strength Tylenol) alters more than 20 signaling pathways inside the heart.

Researchers conducted the study in mice and found that regular moderate doses of acetaminophen altered proteins in heart tissue that are "associated with biochemical pathways involved in a range of functions, such as energy production, antioxidant usage and the breakdown of damaged proteins."

Medical experts generally believe acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol and other pain medications, has a low risk of harmful side effects when used as directed.

However, previous studies suggest that using high doses of acetaminophen regularly may cause heart problems.

This study shows that even medium doses of acetaminophen taken long-term could cause oxidative stress or toxic buildup from breaking down the drug, which could in turn lead to heart issues. Although the body can generally clear toxins before they cause damage, it is less able to do so when medium- to high-doses are taken consistently. "Acetaminophen at moderate doses may alter heart function" www.news-medical.net (Apr. 07, 2024).

Commentary

This study suggests that taking medium- to high-doses of Tylenol and other pain medications containing acetaminophen regularly for a long period of time could cause heart problems.

However, individuals should always talk to their doctor about concerns before changing any recommended medications. Despite these possible risks to heart health, a doctor may determine that acetaminophen is safer for the patient than taking a stronger painkiller, such an opioid.

In addition, other risk factors for heart disease are likely more significant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke because it damages the lining of the arteries, making them more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain."

In addition, high LDL cholesterol doubles a person's risk of heart disease because "excess cholesterol can build up in the walls of arteries and limit blood flow to a person's heart, brain, kidneys, other organs, and legs." "Heart Disease and Stroke" www.cdc.gov (Sep. 08, 2022).

Here are some heart disease prevention tips:
 

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and poultry, and maintain a regular schedule of moderate exercise.
     
  • Maintain a healthy weight to help prevent overexertion of the heart.
     
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
     
  • Control cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
     
  • Drink no alcohol or only in moderation.
     
  • Learn to manage day-to-day life stress with calm and perspective to keep blood pressure in check.
     
  • See your health care provider regularly for check-ups.
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