Popular pain reliever linked to stroke risk in some older adults

Common over-the-counter pain reliever acetaminophen, which is sold under brand names like Tylenol, may increase the risk of stroke in diabetics, according to a new study. This particular pain medication is available to purchase without a prescription in the majority of countries where it is sold, contributing to its popularity with consumers.READ: Popular NSAID pain reliever linked to serious heart health risk

Acetaminophen is inexpensive and popularly used for minor and chronic pain, as well as to reduce fevers. The medication is safely consumed by millions of people every year, but there's a known risk of liver damage associated with overdoses.

Past research into the pain reliever had revealed potential side effects and risks beyond liver damage, such as possible interactions with other medication that could increase the risk of developing other health problems, increased instances of asthma, and more.

Harvard Health points out that acetaminophen is often a vital method for controlling pain in older patients. Research recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society builds upon these past studies and specifically looks at the effects acetaminophen may have on the older adults who consume it.

In this new study, researchers looked for a potential association between the use of acetaminophen in older adults and the experience of serious cardiac events like heart attacks and stroke, as well as death. The research involved a total of 5,429 participants who lived in nursing homes; 74-percent were women and all participants were collectively around 86-years-old.

Of those individuals, 2,239 were already taking acetaminophen. The results were mostly positive — the researchers didn't find an association between taking this pain reliever and increased heart attacks, stroke, or death. There was one exception, however. The study found that diabetics who took acetaminophen had a "slightly higher" risk of suffering from a stroke compared to people who don't have diabetes.

The results indicate that while acetaminophen is available over-the-counter and is generally safe to consume, adults who have diabetes may be face an increased risk of suffering stroke while taking the medication. Studies like this enable health care providers and patients to make more informed choices about the best treatment for any given individual's unique circumstances.