Popular painkiller linked to heart and stroke risk

Feelin' lucky? Then go ahead -- pop that painkiller.

But you'd better hope that today's not the day your luck finally runs out, because some of the most commonly used pain meds carry a major death risk.

The drugs are those nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories used by millions for everything from arthritis to headaches to back pain. And now, researchers say they can double, triple, and even quadruple your odds of heart attack, stroke, and an early death.

Swiss researchers looked at data from 31 "gold-standard" trials that included 116,429 patients, and found that ibuprofen -- a med probably in your own home right now -- can triple the risk of stroke.

And diclofenac, a widely used generic prescription NSAID, can quadruple the risk of death from heart attack and stroke.

These problems aren't rare by any stretch. In fact, the researchers say that for every 25 to 50 patients who take NSAIDs for a year, there will be one extra heart attack or stroke.

That's overall.

But they also believe that patients who already have heart problems could face a much higher risk when they pop those pills -- like the millions of seniors who battle both heart disease and arthritis.

The researchers found naproxen (aka Aleve) to be the "safest" of the NSAIDs, but don't kid yourself -- "safest" doesn't mean "safe." All painkillers carry risk -- and regular use of any NSAID can lead to bleeding problems, ulcers, and more.

And that means you need to be careful with how -- and how often -- you use these things, no matter how old you are or what risks you face.

If you need one from time to time, you need one -- and I won't stand in your way.

But if you're taking one of these things regularly, there's clearly something else going on -- and you and your doc need to get to the bottom of it.

If you go looking for that answer at the bottom of a painkiller jar, you could find yourself at the bottom of a grave.