and Medicine for Seniors
Cold, flu meds risky for senior
citizens with high blood pressure
Some over-the-counter meds can have
negative impact on hypertension
10, 2014 – It is the season for colds and flu. Most of us seniors do not
hesitate to seek quick relief from an over-the-counter (OTC) medication.
Not so fast, says the American Heart Association, most senior citizens
also have hypertension. Some medications taken over the counter can have
a negative impact on blood pressure.
The prevalence of hypertension increases with age
and is a problem for about 65 percent of Americans age 60 and older.
The First Step
“The first step is for people with
high blood pressure to know which products could cause variations in
blood pressure,” says Willie E. Lawrence, Jr., M.D., a spokesman for the
American Heart Association and chief of cardiology at Research Medical
Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
“Cold medicines, painkillers and energy pills or
drinks are a few products to watch out for if you have high blood
“Patients should be aware of the list of things
that we know can cause an elevation in blood pressure,” Dr. Lawrence
said. He advised that these products should be avoided, used with
caution, used only for a short amount of time or used after a discussion
with a medical professional.
Tips on Using OTCs
hypertension should educate themselves before taking
over-the-counter medicines. Some things to consider are listed in
the table below.
with a doctor.
Lawrence cautions that people who have high blood pressure
need to tell their doctors about any over-the-counter
medicine they are taking or have taken recently.
Medication labels should be scrutinized as thoroughly as
food labels. Patients should use increased vigilance in
cooler months because when temperatures drop, colds become
> Look for cold medicines labeled as safe for people
with high blood pressure. Decongestants such as
pseudoephedrine, which may increase blood pressure, are key
ingredients to avoid.
A top ingredient to avoid in medications, as in food, is
salt, which may increase blood pressure due to fluid
retention. On the ingredient label, it may be listed as
“salt,” “sodium” or “soda.”
highly caffeinated products.
Caffeine raises blood pressure and impacts heart rate.
According to Dr. Lawrence, this effect is especially intense
if you’re not used to it. He recommends that people with
high blood pressure avoid high-caffeine energy drinks.
before using painkillers.
Patients should also use caution and speak to their doctors
before using common painkillers, such as the class of drugs
known as NSAIDs, which stands for non-steroidal
> This class includes prescribed medicines as well as
over-the-counter aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen) and Aleve
(naproxen). NSAIDs are associated with increased risks for
people with heart disease and its risk factors. In addition,
“These medicines may raise blood pressure a little and at
higher doses they can damage the kidneys,” Dr. Lawrence
said. Since high blood pressure can lead to kidney disease,
that makes adding NSAIDs a bigger health risk.
Those with moderately elevated or high blood pressure should
monitor it regularly, particularly when taking new
> “People taking medicines in these classes should be
monitoring their blood pressure at home to make certain it
is staying within the range recommended by their doctor,”
Dr. Lawrence said. “If it increases excessively and is
consistently over 140/90, then they need to speak to their
Learn more online at
www.heart.org/HBP. Merck Consumer Care, maker of Coricidin® HBP, is
a sponsor of the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure