This Popular OTC Pain Medication Gets Riskier To Take As You Age

It's no secret that your body changes as you age. You could see wrinkles on your skin, or you might notice your hair gradually turning gray. Your organs also begin to age. A slower digestive and circulatory system could affect how your body absorbs medication. Your kidneys become less efficient in filtering out waste in your body, so some medications could slowly build up. Your liver also weakens as you age, which means it might have problems breaking down the medication.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of people over 60 in the United States take five or more prescription drugs to treat conditions such as high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. As you take more medications as you age, you also run the risk of side effects. This is particularly important if you take over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as ibuprofen for occasional aches and pains. Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can interact with some of your current medications, especially if you take them every day.

How ibuprofen affects older adults

A 2015 article in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management took a closer look at how ibuprofen might affect older adults taking other medications. Prescription ibuprofen can make angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) less effective in treating high blood pressure. Some people taking fosinopril or hydrochlorothiazide for high blood pressure could develop kidney failure if they take high doses of ibuprofen. People taking aspirin for their heart should avoid long-term use of ibuprofen so it doesn't interfere with aspirin's anticoagulant benefits.

Long-term use of NSAIDs such as ibuprofen can increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, kidney failure, and cardiovascular problems, according to a 2010 article in The Annals of Long-Term Care. NSAIDs increase the risk of fatal peptic ulcers, especially if they're taken with corticosteroids and warfarin. Older adults are at a higher risk of kidney failure, and this risk doubles if you take NSAIDs for an extended time. Chronic use of NSAIDs can also increase your risk of a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.

Log your side effects

When your doctor prescribes a new medication, ask either your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects. The Food and Drug Administration suggests keeping track of any changes to your body or mind as your body adapts and telling your doctor if they become problematic. Your doctor should also be aware of other medications you might be taking that are prescribed by other medical professionals. This includes any OTC medications such as ibuprofen, vitamins, cold medicine, or eye drops. It's a good idea to keep a list of all these medications with you.

Remember that NSAIDs such as ibuprofen are medicines. Ibuprofen has side effects of its own if you take a high dose or take it every day. You could experience diarrhea, nausea, or even heart failure even if you're not taking other medications. Although every person's body is different, it's safe for most people to take 400 to 600 milligrams of ibuprofen three times a day with food for about three days (per theĀ Cleveland Clinic).