25 Nov 2015

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Have High Blood Pressure? Know What’s In Your Cold Medicine

According to the latest Heart Insight newsletter from the American Heart Association, using cold medicine without reading the ingredients can be very dangerous for those who have high blood pressure. These medicines may have ingredients that increase blood pressure or increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Decongestants, a common ingredient in cold, flu and allergy medicines, can raise blood pressure, making it difficult to keep blood pressure in a healthy range. The American Heart Association says that people with high blood pressure should be aware of the medicines that can increase blood pressure or interfere with the effectiveness of their heart medicines.

A few decongestant names to look for include: phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine.

Recently, the FDA issued an advisory requiring new labels on prescription and non-prescription drugs commonly used for headaches, backaches, arthritis and even multisymptom cold remedies.

The new labels strengthen an existing warning that nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) increase the chance of a heart attack or stroke. It’s important to know that the increased risk of heart attack and stroke can occur within the first few weeks of taking an NSAID, and may increase with longer use and higher doses.

What to Do

First, you should know that high blood pressure increases your risk for such dangerous health conditions as heart attack, stroke, chronic (long-lasting) heart failure and kidney disease.

If you have high blood pressure you should read the labels of any prescription or non-prescription medicines you take. Some are labeled as safe for people with hypertension. On others, look for warnings for people with high blood pressure or those who take blood pressure medications. These products should be avoided, or used after a discussion with a medical professional.

Because high blood pressure and prehypertension often have no symptoms, checking your blood pressure is the only way to know for sure whether it is too high. If you need cold and flu medicines, ask your doctor if you should check it more often.

If your doctor has prescribed blood pressure medication, take it. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and don’t hesitate to ask questions if you do not understand something.

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