Dangers of High Blood Pressure Medication

Exercising and having a normal weight can lower blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic, but many patients wishing to lower their high blood pressure, or hypertension, have turned to drugs for help. The alternatives are numerous. For example, diuretics, alpha and beta blockers, ACE Inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and blood vessel dilators are used to lower the blood pressure. Some of these have been linked with serious risks for such conditions as different types of cancers, heart attack, liver damage and stroke. Side effects of these medicines are also commonly reported.

Doctor taking patient's blood pressure. Credit: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Side Effects

Hypertension medicines can have many side effects, according to the John Hopkins Health Alerts. They vary significantly depending on the type of high blood pressure medication that the person is taking. The most common side effects include constipation, which is typically caused by calcium channel blockers; dry mouth, caused by central alpha agonists; dehydration caused by diuretics; dizziness caused by alpha-blockers; drowsiness, upset stomach, headaches and increased sensitivity to cold or sunlight caused by several medications.

Cancer Risks

Several types of high blood pressure medications have been linked to an elevated risk for cancer. Drs. Ilke Sipahi, Daniel I. Simon and James C. Fang completed an analysis of over 60,000 patients randomly assigned to take either placebo or a blood pressure medication known as angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB). They found that ARB was linked to an increased risk for cancer. For example, the risk for lung cancer was 25 percent higher among participants taking ARBs than among the control subjects. These findings were published online in The "Lancet Oncology" journal in July 2010. For five years, Dr. A.L. Fitzpatrick and colleagues followed 3,198 women over age 65 taking short-acting calcium channel blockers, other types of high blood pressure medication, or no blood pressure drugs. They found that women taking calcium channel blockers were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as subjects who were not taking high blood pressure medication. The study was published in the "Cancer" journal in October 1997.

Heart Attack and Stroke Risks

Not only are the short-acting calcium channel blockers been linked with cancer, but they have been shown to increase risk of death from a heart attack, says the National Institutes of Health, which also says they should be prescribed with caution. Statins were developed to reduce cholesterol levels, but are increasingly prescribed to lower blood pressure. They have been linked to numerous medical conditions, such as liver disease, depression, heart attacks and strokes, says MedicationSense.com, which says that a high dose of such medicine resulted in a liver injury in 271 patients out of 100,000.

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