Most Adults Are Unaware of This Drug’s Blood-Pressure Danger

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Doctor taking a patient's blood pressure
Zoran Pucarevic /

Just 29% of U.S. adults are aware that taking over-the-counter pain relievers can raise their blood pressure, a recent survey commissioned by the American Heart Association found.

To make matters worse, just 53% of folks diagnosed with high blood pressure check with their doctor before taking this type of medicine.

Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, which the AHA defines as a consistent blood pressure reading of 130/80 or higher.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults also found that a mere 21% of respondents knew that acetaminophen does not raise blood pressure, making it a better pain reliever option for those diagnosed with hypertension.

In addition, many people with hypertension are not monitoring their condition as closely as they should. Just 10% of such U.S. adults self-measure their blood pressure more than once a day, and only 14% do so even once daily.

In a press release, Dr. Willie Lawrence Jr., an interventional cardiologist and volunteer lead of the American Heart Association’s National Hypertension Control Initiative oversight committee, says:

“Because some pain relievers may cause elevated blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends consulting your doctor or pharmacist and making sure you read the label before taking any over-the-counter medication for pain, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure.”

The survey results do not name specific OTC pain relievers, but the AHA’s hypertension guidelines for health care professionals cite nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, among common medications that may cause elevated blood pressure.

NSAIDs are a class of medications that includes ibuprofen and naproxen, among others.

High blood pressure is the single most preventable cause of heart disease and stroke in the U.S., and second only to cigarette smoking as a preventable cause of death, according to the American Heart Association.

Additionally, recent federal government data shows that hypertension is easily the most common chronic health condition among seniors who have been hospitalized for COVID-19, as we detail in “13 Diseases That Are Common in Seniors Who Get COVID-19.”

Even for younger adults, hypertension can have serious consequences. For example, recent research suggests that people who have high blood pressure between the ages of 35 and 44 are more likely to develop dementia.

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