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If you have high blood pressure, you need to be very careful with over-the-counter pain relievers. Remember: No drug is risk-free. Here are some tips from experts on using these drugs.
- Take the safest medicine. Don’t use over-the-counter ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or ketoprofen for pain relief unless your doctor has told you it’s okay. Instead, use a pain reliever that is less likely to raise your blood pressure, such as aspirin or acetaminophen.
- Use as instructed. Follow the directions for the recommended dosage. Most pain relievers should not be used for more than 10 days. If you are still in pain at this point, see your doctor.
- Have your blood pressure checked regularly. This is good advice for anyone who has high blood pressure. But it’s crucial if you’re using any of the pain relievers that can make your high blood pressure worse.
- Avoid alcohol. Most over-the-counter pain relievers are incompatible with alcohol. If you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including aspirin, as little as one drink a week can increase your risk of gastrointestinal bleeding. People who drink three or more drinks a day should not use these medicines. The combination of paracetamol and alcohol can increase the risk of liver damage.
- Read the leaflet. Admit it: When you buy a bottle of an over-the-counter pain reliever, you throw away 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 out for. Check out the list of possible drug interactions.
- Read the ingredients of Everyone medication. Painkillers like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen can show up in the most unlikely places. For example, many over-the-counter medicines for colds or even heartburn also contain doses of painkillers. Make sure you know what you’re getting.
- Watch out for interactions. Many medications for general health conditions can interact with over-the-counter pain relievers. For example, NSAIDs can interact with many common high blood pressure medicines and block their effects.
Mixing aspirin with a prescription “blood thinner” like Eliquis, Coumadin, Plavix, or Xarelta can also be risky, says Dr. Nieca Goldberg, cardiologist and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. If you take prescription drugs for high blood pressure — or any other condition — ask your doctor what over-the-counter drugs to avoid.
- Tell your doctor about all medications, herbs, and additions that you use. Interactions are a real danger. So your doctor needs to know about all the medications you are taking before prescribing any new medication for you. Don’t forget to mention over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and vitamins.
“Bring a list of all the medications and supplements you’re taking to your doctor,” says Goldberg. “It could actually save your life.”