Do you read the labels on the over-the-counter medications you take? If you don’t, you could be a victim of the United States’ hidden health threat –one of the 50 million people in the US with high blood pressure unknowingly putting their health at risk when buying over-the-counter (OTC) medicines or food items. For some high blood pressure patients, taking OTC medicines or foods can increase blood pressure and result in a heart attack, a stroke, or other serious medical problems.
A recent Schering-Plough Corporation (S-PC) survey on the subject found that more men than women are diagnosed with high blood pressure, until both sexes reach age 55. From ages 55 to 74, the percentages of women and men diagnosed are about equal. After that, a higher percentage of women than men have high blood pressure.
Read the Labels
To combat the OTC medicine problem, the American Heart Association (AHA) and S-PC have joined forces to alert high blood pressure patients about “Taking Labels to Heart”–reading the labels before taking the medicine.
The AHA says some medications can raise blood pressure or interfere with high-blood-pressure medications. These drugs include
* Oral contraceptives.
* Nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
* Nasal decongestants and other cold remedies.
* Appetite suppressants.
* Certain antidepressants.
Citing the need for education, the AHA has launched a multifaceted Compliance Action Program that focuses on educating physicians, pharmacists, and healthcare organizations about the compliance issue and provides them with information to help patients follow recommendations.
“The cost of noncompliance, in terms of human lives and money, is shocking,” says Martha Hill, PhD, RN, former president of the AHA. “It is particularly frustrating when effective strategies, identified more than 20 years ago, are not being used to fight this problem. That’s why the AHA is making the compliance issue one of its key initiatives.”
A recent S-PC study will help you decide whether labeled medicine and food products may be harmful if you are a victim of high blood pressure and a possible candidate for a heart attack or stroke.
Research shows that
* More than half of all people in the United States with chronic diseases fail to follow their physician’s medication and lifestyle guidance.
* 80% fail to exercise adequately.
* Only half of all prescriptions are taken properly.
* Only 50% of men and 68% of women understand that regular medical checkups are important to staying well.
This widespread failure to follow health advice costs the United States $100 billion annually in unnecessary medical costs and lost national productivity.
The SP-C survey showed that 86% of people with high blood pressure claimed they always or sometimes examined food and medication labels. Nevertheless, half of the respondents reported having taken OTC products containing cold decongestants or flu medicine–both known to be dangerous for people with high blood pressure. The survey suggests that people with high blood pressure are not reading or heeding the labels.
Dr. Randall M. Zusman, director of the Division of Hypertension and Vascular Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, notes that most OTC medicines are safe and effective as long as they don’t interact with other medications a patient is taking. The danger is that OTC users aren’t aware of potential drug interactions.
Dr. Zusman says, “Blood pressure will go up if a hypertensive patient ingests a vasoconstricting OTC medication. The results of a marked increase in blood pressure can be dramatic, such as heart failure and a downward spiral when the heart does not pump enough blood, and the patient goes progressively downhill.” Such a reaction is rare, but it can be deadly.
Talk to your physician before taking any OTC medication, or at least discuss the issue with your pharmacist, says Dr. Zusman. Make the doctor and the pharmacist aware of all the medications that you are taking. It is important to be careful about anything over-the-counter you use that may conflict with the medications you may have been or are taking.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is called the “silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms. The good news is that high blood pressure is easily detected and can be controlled through changes in diet and exercise and, if necessary, with doctor-prescribed medications.
Elevated blood pressure indicates the heart is working harder than normal, putting both the heart and the arteries under greater strain. High blood pressure may contribute to heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, damage to the eyes, thickening and hardening of the arteries, and arteriosclerosis, the process of depositing fatty substances in the artery walls.
Patients who fail to control their blood pressure are
* Seven times more likely to have a stroke.
* Six times more likely to develop congestive heart failure.
* Three times more likely to develop coronary heart disease–which can lead to a heart attack.
Blood Pressure Facts
High blood pressure in adults is a consistently elevated blood pressure of 140 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) systolic and 90 mmHg diastolic or higher. The first number, 140, represents the pressure against the artery wall caused by the heart’s beating (systolic pressure). The second measurement, 90, represents the pressure against the artery walls when the heart is resting between beats (diastolic pressure).
Article By: Robert Connor, Medical Writer