Understanding Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications and High Blood Pressure

woman reading labels on pill bottles

Look for warnings related to high blood pressure medication.

Always read the labels on all over-the-counter medications, especially if you have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Look for warnings to those with high blood pressure and to those who take blood pressure medications. If you have high blood pressure and certainly if you are on prescription medication, consult your health care professional before taking any over-the-counter medications or supplements.

Be careful with supplements or natural (naturopathic) remedies.

There are no special pills, vitamins or drinks that can substitute for prescription medications and lifestyle modifications. Talk to your health care professional before taking any over-the-counter drug or supplement that claims to lower your blood pressure. They may not work as advertised and/or may interfere with other medications. In fact, some can even raise your blood pressure.

Decongestants may raise your blood pressure.

People with high blood pressure should be aware that the use of decongestants may raise blood pressure or interfere with the effectiveness of some prescribed blood pressure medications. Be aware of over-the-counter cold and flu preparations that contain decongestants as well. Discuss any medications you wish to use with your health care professional. 

Check the sodium content.

Some over-the-counter medications are high in sodium, which can also raise blood pressure. Look at the active and inactive ingredients lists for words like “sodium” or “soda.” Note the amount of sodium in the medication. People with high blood pressure should consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day from all sources — one dose of some over-the-counter medications can contain more than a whole day’s allowance.

Other drugs and substances that can raise your blood pressure include:

  • Alcohol
  • Amphetamines
  • Antidepressants
  • Atypical antipsychotics (for example, clozapine and olanzapine) 
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (for example, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium)
  • Systemic corticosteroids (for example, prednisone and methylprednisolone)

Do not stop taking any prescribed medications without discussing with your health care professional. 

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