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Men's Health: Over-the-counter painkillers may raise blood pressure

Men taking nonprescription pain relievers have about a 30 per cent higher risk of hypertension

Daily use of over-the-counter pain relievers could lead to an increase in blood pressure, a study of health professionals suggests.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston analysed data on more than 16,000 male health professionals who were asked about their use of pain medication and whether they had been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or hypertension, within the previous two years.

Men who used common pain medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) six to seven times a week had a 38 per cent increased risk of hypertension compared with those who did not take pain relievers. NSAIDs include over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen as well as prescription medications such as diclofenac and Celebrex.

Similarly, men who took acetaminophen or Aspirin on a regular basis had a 34 per cent and 26 per cent increased risk of hypertension, respectively, compared with non-users.

“These are the three most commonly used drugs in the country, including all prescription and non-prescription, and because they can be bought over the counter and they’re in rows and rows in the drugstore, people don’t see them as drugs,” says Dr. Gary Curhan, one of the study’s authors.

He suggests that people who take these medications frequently should have a discussion with their doctor about why they need to take them so often.

Curhan says this is the third study to show a relationship between hypertension and pain medication, and he says future research should explore whether people taking these medications regularly will have lower blood pressure if they discontinue them.