1 in 5 People with High Blood Pressure Are Taking Meds That Can Make It Worse

  • Nearly 1 in 5 adults with high blood pressure take medications that could be worsening their blood pressure levels.
  • Researchers say doctors need to pay more attention to what medications people take.
  • Even simple lifestyle changes, like diet and exercise, can help drastically improve people’s blood pressure levels.

Nearly 1 in 5 adults with high blood pressure take medications — like steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antipsychotics, or birth control — that could be worsening their blood pressure levels.

According to the new findings, which were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session, doctors need to pay more attention to what medications people take and how they may affect their blood pressure.

“These are medications that we commonly take — both over-the-counter and prescribed medications — that may have the unintended side effect of raising blood pressure and could have adverse effects on our heart health,” the study’s lead author, Dr. John Vitarello, an internal medicine resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a statement.

The earlier that doctors identify people who are at risk of hypertension, the more opportunities people will have to make lifestyle changes that can help manage hypertension.

Half of adults take drugs that elevate their blood pressure

The study evaluated the health data of 27,599 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2018.

About half of the study participants, 49 percent, had hypertension.

The researchers identified medications they took that are associated with high blood pressure, such as NSAIDS, steroids, birth control pills, and antipsychotics.

Nearly 19 percent used one or more blood pressure-raising medications, and 4 percent used multiple drugs that are linked to higher blood pressure.

The findings also show that stopping use of one of these medications could improve blood pressure rates by 4.8 percent.

How certain drugs affect blood pressure

Many types of drugs can elevate blood pressure.

“NSAIDs, steroids, oral contraceptives, and antipsychotics have a clear correlation with raising blood pressure. This is because they can cause patients to retain fluid a little, which will lead to an increase in the blood pressure,” said Dr. Joyce Oen-Hsiao, the director of clinical cardiology at Yale Medicine and an assistant clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine.

NSAIDs like ibuprofen can raiseTrusted Source blood pressure by impacting blood flow to the kidneys, explained Dr. Guy Mintz, Northwell Health’s director of cardiovascular health and lipidology at Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital.

Antidepressants can alter chemicals in the brain, which can contribute to hypertension, Mintz added.

Steroids can increase blood pressure levels too. “Steroids can cause retention of salt and water to increase blood pressure,” Mintz said.

How high blood pressure affects health

About 45 percent of U.S. adults have hypertension, which is defined as a blood pressure measurement that is equal or greater than 130/80 mm Hg, according to Mintz.

Only 25 percent of U.S. adults have their hypertension under control.

High blood pressure, when untreated, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

“High blood pressure can lead to stroke, kidney failure, and heart failure and is a contributing cause of death for almost half a million people in the United States per year,” Oen-Hsiao said.

The sooner that doctors identify people who are at risk of hypertension, the greater opportunities people will have to manage hypertension by making lifestyle changes, like eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

“One simple thing patients can do to lower their blood pressure is to exercise. A 30-minute walk or bike ride a day will help keep the blood pressure levels down,” Oen-Hsiao said.

Looking forward, doctors must be aware of these potential effects and educate their patients about them.

“Providers who prescribe antidepressants, birth control pills (through estrogen effects), antipsychotic medications should be aware of their patients’ comorbid conditions and choose a medication with a minimal effect on blood pressure,” Mintz said.

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