If you have high blood pressure, you’re at increased risk of heart disease and stroke, so chances are you’ve been working hard to lower it. You might be on medication, or you may be making changes to your diet like eliminating gluten, adding cinnamon and magnesium, eating more yogurt and protein or adding more fiber.
But researchers have identified another factor that could be undoing all your hard blood pressure-reducing work without you knowing it….
The link between blood pressure and certain medications
According to new research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session, roughly 1 in 5 adults with high blood pressure are also taking a medication that could be raising their blood pressure.
These results emphasize the need for high blood pressure sufferers to review all the prescription and over-the-counter medicines they take with their healthcare provider to make sure none are interfering with their efforts to bring their blood pressure down.
According to the study, the three most common classes of blood pressure-raising medicines were antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and oral steroids used to treat gout, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as those used after an organ transplant. About 9 percent of participants reported antidepressant use, 7 percent reported using NSAIDs, and 2 percent said they used oral steroids.
Other medications connected with elevated blood pressure include antipsychotics, some oral contraceptives and popular decongestants.
The findings raise concern because almost half of Americans diagnosed with high blood pressure do not have it sufficiently managed. According to joint guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, hypertension patients are advised to lower their blood pressure to a reading below 130 mmHg over 80 mmHg.
Researchers fear all of these commonly used medications can eventually have a negative impact on heart health.
“We know that high blood pressure leads to cardiovascular disease, stroke and death, and even small increases in blood pressure can have meaningful impacts on cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. John Vitarello, an internal medicine resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the study’s lead author. “Based on our findings, we need to be more aware of polypharmacy (the use of multiple medications by a single patient) in older adults who also have the highest burden of high blood pressure.”
Options for people using blood pressure-raising medication
Among study participants with high blood pressure, 19 percent reported using one or more blood pressure-raising medications, and 4 percent reported using multiple medications. Nearly one-quarter of women with high blood pressure reported using a blood pressure-raising medication, compared with 14 percent of men. Adults over the age of 65 were only slightly more likely to be using blood pressure-raising medications than younger adults.
Researchers acknowledge the study is limited because it relies on participants self-reporting that they have high blood pressure and accurately accounting for all the medications they take.
Still, Vitarello says the findings suggest in some cases healthcare professionals should try lowering blood pressure by halting use of these medicines or substituting them with safer alternatives, rather than simply adding more high blood pressure medications to the patient’s treatment plan. For instance, they could explore other classes of medications to treat the same condition that have less impact on blood pressure.
However, because some patients may not have another medication option, the researchers advise keeping a closer eye on their blood pressure and talking with their care team before stopping or starting medications.
The study authors estimate that if half of U.S. adults with hypertension who are taking one or more of these blood pressure-raising medications were to stop using one of them, it could enable 560,000 to 2.2 million patients to achieve their target blood pressure without additional antihypertensive medicines. But they caution that the analysis is only preliminary, and since individual responses to discontinuing medication use are likely to vary, the benefits and tradeoffs of stopping them need further study.
If you have high blood pressure and you’re taking one of the medications listed in the study, check with your doctor to see if there’s an alternative you can switch to. If not, it’s wise to continue making every effort to balance your blood pressure naturally, even if you’re on blood pressure-reducing medicine.
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Have High Blood Pressure? You May Want to Check Your Meds — American College of Cardiology