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Don't let over-the counter drugs put you under the counter.

As we noted some time ago, an estimated 58 million Americans have higher-than-desirable blood pressure. Because Americans spend billions annually on over-the-counter drugs, persons with high blood pressure should be aware of ingredients in these products that could be dangerous.

Adrenergic agents: These adrenaline-like drugs, found mainly in oral and nasal decongestants, can raise even normal blood pressure. One should probably avoid phenylpropanolamine, also used in some appetite suppressants. A safer nasal decongestant is phenylephrine hydrochloride, tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride, naphazoline hydrochloride, oxymetazoline hydrochloride, and xlometazoline hydrochloride.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): The most familiar of these, ibuprofen, seems to have little effect on blood pressure when used briefly (for a day or two). However, studies have shown that blood pressure rises after the first week of a three-week period and continues to rise from then on.

Ethanol: One can find ethanol, the ethyl alcohol of alcoholic beverages, in many liquid preparations, especially cough and cold products. Some of these contain as much as 25 percent alcohol (50 proof)! As few as two alcoholic drinks a day are enough to raise blood pressure in some persons.

Sodium: An "inactive ingredient" (i.e., it has nothing to do with the pharmaceutical action of the product), sodium is ubiquitous in over-the-counter preparations, as well as processed food of all kinds. If you are on a strict sodium restriction, be sure to ask a pharmacist for information on any product not clearly labeled for sodium content.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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