Do You Have High Blood Pressure? Double Check Your Medications
Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure – a condition that raises your risk for heart attacks, strokes, sexual dysfunction and damage to the brain, kidneys and eyes. However, only 24 percent of Americans with high blood pressure have it under control, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Part of the problem is that 19 percent of people with high blood pressure are taking one or more medications that raise blood pressure, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting.
Blood pressure measurements gauge how hard blood is being pushed against arteries as blood is being carried away from the heart. The measurements are expressed in two numbers -- systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number). American Heart Association blood pressure guidelines suggest a normal systolic reading is lower than 120 and normal diastolic is below 80, for a reading of lower than 120/80.
“High blood pressure is easy to diagnose and monitor, but not always easy to manage,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “Lifestyle behaviors and pharmaceutical treatments for other conditions can interfere.”
In the study, researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts collected and evaluated data on almost 28,000 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2009 and 2018. Almost half of the participants evaluated had high blood pressure, of which 19 percent reported using more than one blood pressure raising medication. Another four percent reported using multiple drugs that raise blood pressure. Participants older than 65 tended to use blood pressure raising medications more often than younger participants, as did more women than men.
Researchers identified three common classes of drugs as being the most problematic: certain antidepressants; oral steroids used to control inflammation associated with gout, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and after an organ transplant; and over-the-counter non-steroidal pain relievers, particularly those that use ibuprofen or naproxen as active ingredients. Researchers also noted some antipsychotics and certain types of oral contraceptives and decongestants.
“This study has some limitations, as it was based on self-reported data,” says Kaminetsky. “However, the findings should encourage patients taking drugs for multiple conditions, including hypertension, to discuss possible medication alternatives with their physicians.”
Of course, it’s not always possible for a doctor to prescribe a medication that doesn’t raise blood pressure. However, researchers estimate that if just half of American adults with high blood pressure discontinued medications that raised their pressure, as many as 2.2 million people might be able to lower their blood pressure into a healthy range.
“Don’t just stop taking a medication. Talk to your doctor to discuss possible alternatives,” Kaminetsky says. “And while you’re at it, you should discuss lifestyle tactics that can help control blood pressure such as a walking program, stress management techniques and the DASH diet with your doctor.”
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