When you have high blood pressure, you need to be very careful with over-the-counter pain relievers. Remember: No medicine is without risk. Here are some tips from experts about using these drugs.
- Take the safest medicine. Unless your doctor has told you it’s OK, do not use ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or ketoprofen without a prescription for pain relief. Instead, use pain relievers that are less likely to raise your blood pressure, such as aspirin or acetaminophen.
- Use as directed. Follow the directions for the recommended dose. Most pain relievers should not be used for more than 10 days. If you are still in pain at that point, see your doctor.
- Get your blood pressure checked regularly. This is good advice for anyone with high blood pressure. But it is crucial if you use any of the pain medications that can make your high blood pressure worse.
- Avoid alcohol. Most over-the-counter pain relievers do not mix with alcohol. If you take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, just one drink a week can increase your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. People who drink three or more drinks a day should not use these drugs. Combining acetaminophen with alcohol can increase the risk of liver damage.
- Read the leaflet. Admit it: When you buy a bottle of over-the-counter medicine, you throw out the printed insert along with the empty box. But you should really get into the habit of reading it. Find out what side effects to look for. Look at the list of possible drug interactions.
- Read the ingredients in everything medicine. Pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can appear in the most unlikely places. For example, many over-the-counter medications for colds or even heartburn also contain doses of pain relievers. Be sure to know what you are getting.
- Take care of communication. Many medications for common health problems can interact with over-the-counter pain relievers. For example, NSAIDs can interact with many common high blood pressure medications and block their effects.
Mixing aspirin with prescription “blood thinners” like Eliquis, Coumadin, Plavix or Xarelta can also be risky, says Nieca Goldberg, MD, a cardiologist and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. If you take prescription drugs for high blood pressure – or any other condition – ask your doctor which drugs you need to avoid.
- Tell your doctor about all medicines, herbs and supplements that you use. Interactions are a real danger. So your health care provider needs to know about all the medicines you are taking before you are prescribed a new medicine. Don’t forget to mention over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and vitamins.
“Bring a list of all medications and supplements you take to your doctor,” says Goldberg. “It could actually save your life.”