What Do You Know about OTC Pain Relievers?

While nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure (HBP), only 29% think over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers may make the condition worse, according to a recent survey commissioned by the American Heart Association (AHA).

High blood pressure, according to the AHA’s 2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Management of High Blood Pressure, is defined as a consistent blood pressure measurement of 130 over 80 or higher. The guidelines also state that some OTC pain relievers may elevate blood pressure. 

While the majority of adults in the general population, as well as people with high blood pressure, aren’t sure about the effect of OTC pain medicine on their blood pressure, only a little more than half of those diagnosed with high blood pressure, who take OTC pain relievers (53%) check with their doctor before taking this medicine.

“People who have high blood pressure or are being treated with blood pressure medication – along with their loved ones and caretakers – need to be informed about safe over-the-counter pain relievers,” said Willie Lawrence, Jr., M.D., interventional cardiologist, medical director for health equity, Spectrum Health in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and volunteer lead of the AHA’s National Hypertension Control Initiative oversight committee.

“Because some pain relievers may cause elevated blood pressure, the [AHA] 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.”

Conducted by The Harris Poll, the survey polled 2,013 U.S. adults aged 18 and older. Additional findings from the survey include:

38% of those with high blood pressure think over-the-counter pain relievers may raise blood pressure.

Only 21% of U.S. adults know that acetaminophen does not raise blood pressure, and those with high blood pressure are only slightly more aware of this fact (28%).

39% of U.S. adults with high blood pressure report acetaminophen is the over-the-counter medication they take most often for pain.

Only 10% of U.S. adults with HBP self-measure their BP multiple times a day and only 14% do so at least once a day.

In the U.S., high blood pressure is the No. 1 preventable cause of heart disease and stroke and is second only to cigarette smoking as a preventable cause of death for any reason. Checking your blood pressure regularly at home with a validated blood pressure device for the most accurate reading, and working with your doctor on a plan to control it, is a proven way to manage your blood pressure.

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