Most people with hypertension or high blood pressure (HBP) are advised to lower their sodium intake, lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, reduce stress, cut back on caffeine, and limit alcohol. In addition, most hypertensive patients will also be prescribed medication for controlling hypertension. Blood pressure medications have been shown to be very effective in lowering hypertension rates. But what if you’re doing everything right, but your blood pressure is still high? Could other prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications be part of the problem?
The number of people in the United States, who have hypertension or high blood pressure (HBP), keeps on rising. According to the CDC, nearly half of adults in the U.S. (47% or 116 million) have HBP, defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHG or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHG or are taking medication for hypertension. People with HBP are at an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney disease that may lead to kidney failure and dialysis.
Maintaining a lower, stable blood pressure is vital for preventing serious and life-threatening cardiac events from happening. Yet, when up to19 percent of Americans with hypertension are currently taking one or more medications possibly elevating blood pressure, this creates a situation undermining efforts stabilizing blood pressure and putting them at risk for a major cardiac event.
Medications that may be raising your blood pressure
There is a term called polypharmacy, which is defined as the regular use of at least five medications for health conditions. Polypharmacy is common in older adults placing them at risk for adverse medical outcomes, such as raising blood pressure. Up to 15 percent of the U.S. population uses five or more prescription medications and likely a good portion of them have high blood pressure.
Below are examples of prescription medications and OTC medications that can raise blood pressure:
- Certain antidepressants, such as fluoxetine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants
- Oral steroids used to treat condition such as gout, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Immunosuppressants, central nervous system stimulants and drugs used to treat autoimmune disease and cancers
- OTC nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen and naproxen used at high doses for prolonged use
- Weight-loss stimulants
- Antacids high in sodium
- Some herbal remedies and dietary supplements
Protecting yourself from medications that raise blood pressure
All people taking multiple medications, whether prescription or OTC, needs to follow certain steps to protect themselves from serious harm, including people with HBP.
Here are steps to take protecting yourself from the risk of polypharmacy:
- Keep a list of all medications you take, prescription and OTC.
- Use only one pharmacy if possible. If using multiple pharmacies, be sure each one has a complete record of all drugs you use. Pharmacists will be alerted if a drug is potentially inappropriate for you.
- Consider a consultation with a senior pharmacist if your take drugs for multiple health issues. Senior pharmacists keep abreast of the latest research on medications and will work with your primary care physician to improve drug outcomes.
- Yearly, have your primary care physician review all prescription and OTC medications you take. As we age, the body absorbs and breaks down medications differently. If you’ve taken a medication a long time, your doctor may decide to change it.
- Take medications exactly as prescribed.
- Follow the expiration dates on medications as drugs will lose potency over time.
- If you see multiple doctors, make sure they each know all of the medications you are taking. Drug interactions can have serious consequences. This includes OTC medications and supplements.