If you have high blood pressure, you probably take medicine to lower it. But it’s equally important to know about other medications and supplements that can raise your blood pressure and interfere with your treatment.
Here are some tips to help you avoid drug interactions and keep your blood pressure under control.
Keep a list of medicines and supplements
Let all your doctors know about all the medicines you are prescribed. That way, each doctor can check for possible interactions that can affect your blood pressure. Also tell your doctors about any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements you take.
When you’re prescribed a new medication, ask about its possible effect on blood pressure. Pay special attention to these classes of drugs:
- Drugs to suppress the immune system
- Medicines that contain hormones
- Pain medications
- Stimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta)
If you’re concerned that a medicine has the potential to raise blood pressure, ask your doctor if there’s an alternative or if your dose can be lowered. You can also talk to your pharmacist about the effects of any medicines you take and any possible interactions.
Read labels carefully
If you are being treated for high blood pressure, you probably already look at food labels. You should also be reading the labels on any OTC medicines, supplements, or herbal products that you buy. With OTC medicines, check to see if the label has a warning for people who take blood pressure medicine or who have high blood pressure. Do not take that medicine before talking with your doctor about it. Your doctor can tell you whether it’s safe for you and suggest possible alternatives.
Supplements and herbal products often don’t have detailed, helpful labels. Still, check the label to see if the product contains the same ingredients you try to avoid in foods, especially sodium. This may be listed on nutrient labels as salt or soda. High sodium intake causes you to retain fluid, which can raise your blood pressure.
Just say ‘no’ to these medications and supplements
Here are some products you should avoid:
- Decongestants containing pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine. Many cold and flu remedies contain decongestants among their ingredients and should be avoided. Ask your pharmacist about topical decongestants as an alternative. Also consider using nasal strips that open breathing passages—without the use of medicine.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) can raise blood pressure. NSAIDs are also commonly found in other medicines. An occasional tablet may be OK, but be sure to ask your pharmacist or doctor about other pain remedies. An occasional dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be safer. Also consider massage or applying ice or a warm compress to a painful area of the body.
- Products containing caffeine or other stimulants. For most people, the caffeine in coffee doesn’t seem to be a problem. But definitely avoid products such as energy drinks with high, concentrated doses.
- Smoking cessation products that contain nicotine, such as gum, patches, or lozenges. Talk with your doctor before using these.
- Herbal supplements such as bitter orange, ginkgo, ginseng, licorice, and St. John’s wort. All of these can affect blood pressure.
Monitor your blood pressure at home
Checking your own blood pressure, especially when you start taking a new medicine, can help you spot problems early. Inexpensive, easy-to-use blood pressure monitors are available for purchase. Your pharmacist can help you choose one that’s right for you.
The American Heart Association (AHA) advises that when shopping for a blood pressure monitor, you make sure the monitor has been tested, validated, and approved by one of these groups: the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the British Hypertension Society, or the International Protocol for the Validation of Automated BP Measuring Devices. A list of validated monitors is available on the Dabl Educational Trust website. The AHA offers an instructional video.
Ask your doctor about your blood pressure goals. Ideally, optimum blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. But your doctor will set your own goals based on your health.
Keep in mind, your blood pressure can go up or down many times in just one day, and it’s often higher in the morning. This doesn’t mean there’s a problem. But if your readings are consistently above your target numbers, call your doctor for advice.
This article was adapted from Health After 50.