Older Aussies with high blood pressure need to ‘check their meds’

Older Australians with high blood pressure should check that their meds aren’t making it even higher, according to research from the American College of Cardiology.

Nearly one in five adults with high blood pressure – a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke – also take a medicine that could be elevating their blood pressure, say the researchers,

They say patients, in conjunction with a health professional, should review all the medications they take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs, to make sure none could be interfering with blood pressure-lowering efforts.

The most likely culprits were antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and oral steroids used to treat conditions such as gout, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or an organ transplant.

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Other medications associated with elevated blood pressure included antipsychotics, some oral contraceptives and popular decongestants.

“These are medications that we commonly take – both over-the-counter and prescribed medications – that may have the unintended side-effect of raising blood pressure and could have adverse effects on our heart health,” said study lead author John Vitarello.

“We know that high blood pressure leads to cardiovascular disease, stroke and death and even small increases in blood pressure can have meaningful impacts on cardiovascular disease. Based on our findings, we need to be more aware of polypharmacy (the use of multiple medications by a single patient) in older adults who also have the highest burden of high blood pressure.”

Read more: Blood pressure medication helps even the frailest seniors live longer

Among the 27,599 participants (average age 55) with high blood pressure, 19 per cent reported using one or more blood pressure-raising medication and 4 per cent reported using multiple blood pressure-raising medications.

And women were more at risk, with nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of women with high blood pressure using a blood pressure-raising medication compared with 14 per cent of men.

Older people were slightly more likely to be using blood pressure-raising medications than younger adults (19 per cent of participants over 65 versus 18 per cent of participants under 65).

The findings suggest that, in some cases, rather than treating high blood pressure with more medications, there may be opportunities to lower blood pressure by deprescribing or substituting safer medications.

Read more: Blood pressure drug linked to increased cancer risk in older Aussies

Additionally, the study suggests that should those with high blood pressure discontinue one of these blood pressure-raising medications, significantly more patients could be able to achieve their blood pressure goals without additional medications.

But Dr Vitarello says individual responses to stopping blood pressure medications are likely to vary, and the benefits and trade-offs of stopping these medications need to be further studied.

Do you have high blood pressure and regularly take any of the aforementioned ‘culprits’? What do you do to keep your blood pressure down? Why not tell us in the comments section below?

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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