This is Your Blood Pressure on Drugs

When we think of blood pressure and drugs together most of us will think of medications used to treat hypertension. But what about drugs – including both prescription and over-the-counter medications – that actually cause or contribute to it?

It’s a topic that’s not much discussed, but should be. Many people will be surprised to learn that some of the most common and frequently used drugs can cause significant increases in blood pressure. Even doctors who should know better sometimes prescribe such drugs to patients with hypertension!

Some of these drugs can also interfere with other medications and even natural methods to reduce arterial pressure. How frustrated would you be to discover that your attempts to improve your health through difficult lifestyle changes is being sabotaged by something you may be taking… to improve your health, of course!

By far the most common of these “hypertensive” drugs are NSAIDs (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs). NSAIDs form a large class of drugs used to treat painful conditions like arthritis. The most common of these is sold as ibuprofen, taken in its billions since going over-the-counter in the 1980s.

Millions of people with chronic conditions are routinely prescribed powerful NSAIDs on a long-term basis. Even aspirin is an NSAID. Although its unique properties help aspirin to prevent blood clotting, it also has the potential to increase blood pressure in some people.

The effect that NSAIDs can have on blood pressure is not negligible. In fact, it has been shown to raise systolic pressure by up to 20 points or more and many cases of hypertension are due to the effects of these drugs alone. Women seem to be the most susceptible to the side effects of NSAIDs – and young women are ironically their biggest consumers – but anyone can be severely affected.

NSAIDs affect blood pressure by causing fluid retention (edema), which makes the heart, liver and kidneys work harder and can lead to their permanent damage. Proper functioning of these organs is crucial to blood pressure regulation.

Cough and cold medicines are another danger to your blood pressure. Many of them contain NSAIDs but further risk comes from decongestants. Most people use cough medicines only temporarily but this could result in a misleading diagnosis of hypertension when coinciding with a medical exam. And millions of hay fever and other allergy sufferers use decongestants routinely.

Medications to relieve migraines, weight loss drugs and appetite suppressants are further medications known to increase blood pressure. In fact, virtually every drug has some potential to impact it as well as other important functions. What’s more, when you combine drugs the interactions become ever more complex and unpredictable.

If you suffer hypertension or experience rising blood pressure one of the most important things you can do is to examine the medications you are taking. There may be a way to determine how these substances are affecting your pressure and, if so, find safer alternatives. Discuss it with your doctor (just try not to come away with even more drugs!).