Blood Pressure and Over-the-Counter Medications Don’t Always Mix

Woman holding medicine bottle
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Most of us turn to over-the-counter (OTC) medications for relief from a variety of symptoms, from headaches, tummy aches and muscle cramps to coughing, sneezing and sore throat. But if you have high blood pressure, you should be aware that some store-bought medicines may have more serious effects for you. 

In fact, many OTC medications can have a direct impact on your blood pressure. Even if the effects are only temporary, short episodes of elevated blood pressure can add up and cause permanent damage to your blood vessels and heart. Over-the-counter remedies can also reduce the effectiveness of your prescribed blood pressure medications.

To protect your whole health, it’s important to know these tips.

Protect Yourself from High Blood Pressure Caused by Over-the-Counter Medicines

You can help control your blood pressure by making it a habit to read the labels on all OTC medications before taking them. Look for listed warnings to those with high blood pressure, especially to those taking prescribed blood pressure medications and know what types of medicines to limit or avoid whenever possible. You may also want to call your primary care physician and review any current or new OTC medications for safety and efficacy. Here are some of which to be aware. 

Supplements

Speak with your doctor before taking any natural remedies or supplements that claim to lower your blood pressure. Often, these supplements don’t work as stated, may interfere with other medications you’re taking and can actually raise your blood pressure.

Decongestants

Speak with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter decongestants. Look for cold and flu medications that are specifically made for people with high blood pressure. Many decongestants raise your blood pressure and may decrease the effectiveness of your current blood pressure prescriptions. Over-the-counter cold and flu medications often contain decongestants such as:

  • Oxymetazoline
  • Phenylephrine
  • Pseudoephedrine

NSAIDs

NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen contain sodium which may cause fluid retention and increase blood pressure. Additionally, NSAIDs may interfere with prescription blood pressure medications by decreasing their effectiveness. Talk with your doctor before taking any NSAIDs, especially if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.

Sodium Content

Many OTC medications contain high levels of sodium, which can raise your blood pressure. Read the label and look for active and inactive ingredients that list “sodium” or “soda”. You should consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day from all sources if you have high blood pressure. Many store-bought or natural remedies have more than your whole day’s allowance in one dose. 

We know how hard it is to navigate the over-the-counter pharmacy aisle. Rest assured that our experts are here to help guide you with the expert that you need, from an AdventHealth primary care provider to a long list of physician specialists.

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