| Aspirin, Acetaminophen
Linked to High Blood Pressure
(HealthScoutNews) -- New research
suggests that young and middle-aged women who take painkillers
such as Tylenol, Motrin and Advil may be setting themselves up
for significantly higher blood pressure even if they don't already
suffer from hypertension.
"Lots of people believe that
these medications are completely safe because they're available
over the counter," says study co-author Dr. Gary C. Curhan,
an epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health. "But
we know that (they) can have multiple other effects. This would
be one more thing that people should consider if they use these
medications on a regular basis."
There are three main types of over-the-counter
painkillers -- aspirin, acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDS) -- which include ibuprofen-based medications such
as Advil and Motrin. Researchers have linked NSAIDs to high blood
pressure, but previous studies only looked at people who already
suffered from the condition, which is also known as hypertension,
In the new study, Curhan and his colleagues
examined an ongoing study of nurses who have been followed since
1989. The researchers found 80,020 women, aged 31 to 50, who had
no history of hypertension and studied their answers to a 1995
survey about their use of painkillers.
The findings appear in today's issue
of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
About half the women took aspirin
at least one day a month, and between 72 and 77 percent took NSAIDs
When various risk factors were taken
into account, those who took acetaminophen at least 22 days month
had twice the risk of developing hypertension compared to those
who took no drugs from that class. Those who took NSAIDs had an
86 percent higher risk.
"I consider that pretty substantial,"
Meanwhile, those who took aspirin
were at no higher risk.
NSAIDs and acetaminophen may interfere
with the ability of blood vessels to remain dilated, Curhan explains:
"If the blood vessels constrict, then the blood pressure
can go up."
Some experts liken blood vessels to
a garden hose. If you squeeze the hose, the pressure inside will
There's another potential problem,
Curhan adds. "It can cause the body to retain sodium, and
that can raise blood pressure."
Curhan said the study results still
need to be confirmed by further research, which may shed light
on how long it takes for painkiller use to affect blood pressure.
"Nobody's done a study like this before," he says.
For now, women who take the painkillers
should consider all the risks, Curhan says. "My hope is that
they're not taking them for (the wrong) reasons. Lots of people
take these for a variety of reasons, many of which don't have
anything to do with what they're designed to do."
Moderate use of painkillers should
still be all right, says Dr. Eric Eichhorn, medical director of
the Cardiopulmonary Research Science and Technology Institute
in Dallas. "When used appropriately, they serve a very important
function. My guess is that it's a continuum. If you take painkillers
for a day or two, that's probably fine. But if you take them all
the time every day of the month, your chances of hypertension
Eichhorn adds the design of the
study doesn't account for other factors that could affect blood
pressure in the women. "It's guilt by association,"
he says. "There are a whole lot of other factors that could
What To Do
For an explanation of how NSAIDs
and analgesics work, try Pharmacology
Central. Learn more about NSAIDs
Reference Source 101