Blood pressure is the measure of the force that blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels. Optimal blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, is a systolic reading (the pressure while the heart contracts) of less than 120 mm/Hg and a diastolic reading (the pressure while the heart relaxes) of less than 80 mm/Hg. There are many factors that affect blood pressure, including diet and exercise. Many medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, can trigger an increase in blood pressure.
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Acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer medication that is available over the counter. Acetaminophen is available in prescriptions when combined with other medications, such as codeine (an opioid narcotic), oxycodone or hydrocodone. A study published by the Arthritis Foundation found that patients who take acetaminophen regularly, meaning six to seven days a week, have a 34 percent higher risk of developing high blood pressure.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs, are medications used to relieve pain, reduce fever and decrease inflammation. NSAIDs are available as either over-the-counter formulations or prescription-strength drugs. Examples of NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. This type of medication is used to treat a variety of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and menstrual pain.
NSAIDs cause the body to retain fluids, which affects blood pressure. More fluid means there is a higher volume of blood. To pump the increased volume of blood, the heart must contract more strongly, increasing the blood pressure. The Arthritis Foundation reports that patients who take NSAIDs six to seven days a week have a 38 percent higher risk of high blood pressure.
Antidepressant medications, such as venlafaxine, bupropion, desipramine and phenelzine, alter the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, including norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Although the Mayo Clinic reports that the reason for the increase in blood pressure caused by antidepressants is unknown, evidence shows that they do increase blood pressure.
Birth-control pills are medications that contain the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. By altering the levels of hormones in the body, these medications interrupt the reproductive processes that are important for obtaining and sustaining a pregnancy.
Although many people believe that high blood pressure is more common among men than women, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that nearly half of all adults who suffer from high blood pressure are women. The AHA also confirms that taking oral birth-control pills can increase blood pressure, especially in those overweight or who choose to smoke.
Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine and oxymetazoline, are drugs frequently included in over-the-counter cough and cold medications. These medications trigger the blood vessels to constrict (become smaller), according to the Mayo Clinic, therefore increasing blood pressure.