News & Research, Treatment

OTC Pain Meds & High Blood Pressure

Over-the-counter pain meds raise the risk of high blood pressure — for men as well as women. A recent study indicates that all painkillers are potential culprits, they include:

This is yet more proof that over-the-counter does not mean safe. Some other problems with OTC painkillers are increased heart attack risk, stomach bleeding and liver damage.

The American Heart Association advised yesterday that doctors be cautious in prescribing painkillers, particularly Celebrex, because of the risks. Today’s New York Times warns that few patients know the appropriate dose of acetaminophen or the havoc it can wreak on one’s liver.

No wonder I try so hard to tough it out.

News & Research

Mixed Findings on Caffeine and High Blood Pressue

Non-coffee drinkers who occasionally indulge in a cup of coffee are likely to have their blood pressure increase as their bodies take in the caffeine. People who practically mainline it (like me) or even just drink it regularly may also experience higher blood pressure. If a recent study, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, on this phenomenon is supported by further research, it’s possible to conclude that the more frequently someone drinks coffee, the more often his or her blood pressure is elevated.

But, other studies have not found a conclusive link between coffee and high blood pressure. A 12-year long Harvard study of more than 155,000 female nurses, the results of which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on November 9, shows no connection between coffee consumption and a rise in blood pressure for women. In fact, women who drank the most coffee seemed to develop a protection against the problem. Whether this is true in men is under investigation.

And another but… The findings about coffee intake can’t exactly be generalized to include all caffeine. The Harvard study found a much greater risk of high blood pressure in women who drank caffeinated soda. However, researchers suspect that some other ingredient in soda is the cause for the increase.

I learned about the article in American Journal of Hypertension from James of Relieve Migraine Headache, who posted on it yesterday.

Meds & Supplements, News & Research, Patient Education, Treatment

Headache: Vascular or Neurological?

The results of a recent study on high blood pressure meds and headache raises the question if headaches are vascular or neurological.

The study authors did a meta-analysis, which is a review of previously published research. In the 94 studies of four different kids of blood pressure meds that they reviewed, patients taking the drugs reported a third fewer headaches than those who took placebos. Study authors concluded that high blood pressure probably causes headache; that is, headaches are vascular in origin.

Donald Penzien, the director of the head pain center at the University of Mississippi in Jackson, disagrees. While blood pressure meds are used as headache preventives, he says that specialists are pretty sure that headaches are not caused by high blood pressure, but originate in the brain and may cause vascular changes temporarily.

Meds for lowering blood pressure are prescribed even to migraine patients with normal blood pressure and still seem to work. Indicating that the meds work because the characteristics that affect blood pressure also affect the brain. Penzien believes that the participants in the 94 original studies may have had undiagnosed migraine, which is why the blood pressure meds reduced their headaches.

Most evidence points to migraine and tension type headache as phenomena of the brain. An ACHE article by Stephen Silberstein provides a clear explanation of why headaches were originally thought to be vascular and why they are now considered neurological. Here’s an excerpt:

“Until recently, medical researchers believed that tension-type headache was caused by contraction of muscles of the head and neck, and that migraine headache resulted from the expansion (or dilation) of blood vessels in the brain and scalp. The migraine aura was thought to be due to a constriction of the blood vessels, which preceded the dilation and which reduced blood supply to the eyes and brain. These theories made sense to both physicians and patients, since they accounted for the tenderness and the throbbing experienced with these forms of headache, as well as the visual disturbances of aura. However, the vascular (involving blood vessels) theory could not explain many of the other symptoms of migraine, including the mood changes before and after the attack, and the nausea and vomiting that occur during the attack.

“The use of new noninvasive technology, such as MRI, PET and CT scans, along with the great advances in understanding the brain’s biochemistry, have taught us much more about the causes of head pain. As we now know, vascular changes may be an important factor in a headache attack, but they are not the whole story nor the root cause. A reduction in brain activity, rather than blood supply, seems to be linked to the migraine aura. Similarly, there is little evidence that muscle contraction causes tension-type headache. Some researchers think that several stages in the complex pain-producing process are similar for these two distinct headache disorders.”

Meds & Supplements, News & Research

Analgesics Increase Blood Pressure… or Not

Men who use analgesics are not likely to be at a greater risk of high blood pressure than those who don’t, according to a study in the Sept. 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Although the original analysis of the same data did find a significant association of cumulative analgesic use and high blood pressure, this study, which considered other contributing factors to high blood pressure, did not. Researchers also noted no difference in men who took high quantities of the drugs and those who took low quantities.

For information on other studies of analgesic use, see Another Problem with Painkillers.

Meds & Supplements, News & Research

Tylenol & Ibuprofen Linked to Women’s High Blood Pressure

Women who take more than 400 milligrams of ibuprofen (or other NSAIDs) or 500 milligrams of acetaminophen per day have an increased risk of high blood pressure than those who do not take the meds, found a study that will be published in the September issue of the journal Hypertension.

Taking more than 400 milligrams of NSAIDs per day increased the risk of high blood pressure by 78% in women 51 to 77 years old and by 60% in women between the ages of 34 and 53. Daily use of more than 500 milligrams of acetaminophen raised the risk of high blood pressure by 93% in women in the older age group and by 99% in younger women.

This study clarified that it is the painkillers and not the headaches that women are trying to treat that cause high blood pressure.

Learn more by reading the WebMD article, Common Pain Drugs Up High Blood Pressure Risk, or the journal article abstract, Non-Narcotic Analgesic Dose and Risk of Incident Hypertension in US Women.