Health & Wellness

Your Meds Could Be Raising Your Blood Pressure

Almost one in five Americans with high blood pressure are taking a medication that can push it higher

By Caitlin Finlay

For many patients, the key to controlling high blood pressure may not be adding a new medication but avoiding those that make the condition worse.

According to research presented in May at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session, nearly one in five US adults with high blood pressure are inadvertently taking a medication that can increase blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a risk for stroke and heart disease, so it’s extremely important to control it with the right medications. Reviewing all medications, including over-the-counter medications, with medical professionals is key to preventing unwanted interactions.

The study involved 27,599 participants in a US national health and nutrition survey conducted between 2009 and 2018. Almost half (49%) of participants were found to have hypertension, indicated by a systolic (top number) blood pressure reading of 130 mmHg or greater, or a diastolic (bottom number) reading of 80 mmHg or greater.

Among participants with high blood pressure, 19% said they took one or more medications that can raise blood pressure, with 4% reporting using several. Women (24%) were more likely than men (14%) to report taking at least one of the medications, and adults over 65 (19%) were slightly more likely than those under 65 (18%). The most commonly reported hypertension-boosting medications were antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and oral steroids (often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and lupus.) Others included decongestants, oral contraceptives, and antipsychotics. Of the medications reported, 9% of participants were taking antidepressants, 7% were taking NSAIDs, and 2% said they were taking oral steroids.

The study authors suggest that instead of prescribing new medications to treat high blood pressure, health care-professionals first review a patient’s current medications and remove or substitute for those that can elevate blood pressure. They estimate that 560,000 to 2.2 million adults with hypertension in the United States could achieve their blood pressure goals if they stopped taking a medication that elevates blood pressure.

It’s important to remember that patients react to medications differently—if you’re contemplating any changes to your medications, always first discuss the matter with a medical professional.

Photo: 14/moussa81.