Chronic pain linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke

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Published: September, 2020

People with chronic pain may be more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those without chronic pain, according to a study published online May 7, 2020, by the journal Pain Medicine.

From 2001 to 2005, researchers identified 17,614 Taiwanese people who had used pain relievers for at least three months. The most common causes of pain were spinal disorders, arthritis, and headaches; the pain relievers included both over-the-counter drugs and prescription opioids. For the comparison group, researchers used 35,228 people without chronic pain who were matched by age and sex to those in the first group.

During the follow-up, which lasted until 2015, people with chronic pain were 20% more likely to experience a heart attack and 30% more likely to have a stroke than those without chronic pain. Researchers adjusted the results for diabetes and other factors that raise the risk of heart disease.

What might explain the connection? Pain may trigger a number of factors linked to poor heart health, including stress, reduced ability to exercise, poor sleep, and depression, the authors say.

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