4 Meds That Are Raising Your Blood Pressure, Experts Say
If you're at risk of a heart condition, these meds may do more harm than good.
Before you take any new medication, whether prescription or over-the-counter (OTC), it's essential to weigh the potential risks and benefits. If the side effects could cause more harm than they're worth, that's a good reason to talk to your doctor about possible alternatives. In particular, experts are warning that some types of medication may raise your blood pressure, or cause your blood pressure medication to fail—a potentially serious side effect, especially for people already at heightened coronary risk. Read on to learn four of the most common meds that can send your blood pressure soaring, and what to take instead.
READ THIS NEXT: This Is Why Your High Blood Pressure Isn't Responding to Medication.
Decongestant cold medicines
Decongestant medications work by constricting the blood vessels in your nose and sinuses, thereby minimizing swelling and reducing fluid. However, the Mayo Clinic points out that this process inhibits blood flow through those vessels, ultimately increasing blood pressure. "Decongestants may also make some blood pressure medications less effective," their experts warn. They add that if you already have high blood pressure, you should avoid taking Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed 12-hour) and Phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine), two types of decongestants that are known to cause hypertension.
The good news? There are safer options on the market for those who believe they are at higher risk of developing a problem. "Alternatives to oral decongestants are available," says Harvard Health Publishing. "In the drug realm, antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and loratadine (Claritin) can help with a stuffy nose are safe for the heart," their experts advise.
READ THIS NEXT: This Popular OTC Drug Can Easily Cause "Severe Damage," Doctor Warns.
Many prescription and over-the-counter pain medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause your body to retain water. When this happens, the excess fluid can cause your blood pressure to rise, forcing your heart to work harder.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pain meds and NSAIDs that elicit this reaction include Indomethacin (Indocin, Tyvorbex), Piroxicam (Feldene), and OTC medications such as aspirin, Aleve, and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and others). If you have high blood pressure or believe you may be at high risk for hypertension, ask your doctor about alternatives.
According to a 2021 study published in the journal Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, "individuals suffering from depressive disorders display a greater incidence of hypertension compared with the general population, despite reports of the association between depression and hypotension. This phenomenon may depend, at least in part, on the use of antidepressant drugs, which may influence blood pressure," the study authors write.
While a wide range of antidepressants are known to trigger hypertension, the Mayo Clinic specifically points the finger at monoamine oxidase inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, and fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) for their higher likelihood of the side effect.
"Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs] are characterized by limited effects on autonomic system activity and a lower impact on blood pressure. Thus, they represent the safest class [of antidepressant drugs]—particularly among elderly and cardiovascular patients," the study says.
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Hormonal birth control
While many women can safely take hormonal birth control without it affecting their blood pressure, nearly all forms of hormonal birth control are capable of causing such a problem by narrowing the blood vessels. "Nearly all birth control pills, patches and vaginal rings come with warnings that high blood pressure may be a side effect. The risk of high blood pressure is greater if you're older than age 35, overweight or a smoker," warns the Mayo Clinic.
Low-estrogen forms of birth control may be among the safest types for individuals with high blood pressure. Speak with your doctor about whether your birth control method may be causing a problem, and if you take hormonal birth control, request a screening for hypertension every six to 12 months.