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​Protect Yourself From Pills That Raise Your Blood Pressure​

If you have hypertension, beware of taking certain prescription and OTC medications

illustration of a clear tube bent into the shape of a heart showing medicine pills falling down into it

Nick Ferrari

En español

Nearly half of all adult Americans and 3 out 4 people 60 and older have high blood pressure. That’s about 108 million people at increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

Yet a remarkable 19 percent of adults with hypertension are currently taking one or more medications that could be elevating their blood pressure, according to a study of more than 10,600 patients presented earlier this year by John Vitarello, M.D., an internal medicine resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

If you’re treating your hypertension, good for you — keep it up. But be aware that you may well be undermining your own well-being by mixing your blood pressure meds with one of the medications below.

Over-the-counter trouble

Ibuprofen and naproxen, for example, are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke with high doses or prolonged use, according to the American College of Cardiology (ACC). They’re among many prescription and OTC drugs the ACC says can raise blood pressure — or prevent the drugs that lower blood pressure from working properly.

That list includes products for cough, colds and flu; decongestants; weight-loss stimulants; antacids high in sodium; and some herbal remedies and dietary supplements. If you regularly take an OTC medication, read the label carefully and talk with your doctor about safer alternatives.

Prescriptive dangers

Fifteen percent of the U.S. population uses five or more prescription medications, says Matthew C. Foy, M.D., a nephrologist at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Baton Rouge. “There is likely a sizable fraction of the hypertensive population with disease induced or exacerbated by polypharmacy,” Foy writes.

 Among the prescriptions that can raise blood pressure:

  • Certain antidepressants, such as fluoxetine, monoamine oxidase inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants
  • Oral steroids used to treat conditions such as gout, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Immunosuppressants, central nervous system stimulants and drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases and cancers

How to protect yourself is a searchable database of prescription and OTC drugs that provides evidence-based guidelines on potentially inappropriate medications for older adults. Of course, be sure to keep a complete list of medications you take, even those given to you as samples, to show your doctor.

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In addition, use a single pharmacy whenever possible; if you use multiple pharmacies, make sure that each one has a record of all your drugs. When filling prescriptions, pharmacists will be alerted automatically if the drug is potentially inappropriate for you.

If you take drugs for multiple health issues, consider a consultation with a senior care pharmacist, advises Chad Worz, a pharmacist and CEO of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP). Senior care pharmacists keep abreast of the latest research around medications and can work with your primary care provider to improve drug outcomes and your quality of life.

The ASCP Foundation maintains a patient-oriented website, at, with helpful information for seniors and a directory of senior care pharmacists accredited by the ASCP.

Cynthia E. Keen writes about medicine and technology for Physics World and

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