Study: Many people with hypertension unintentionally take medications that worsen it

A variety of medicinal pills are positioned next to blood pressure measurement device and EKG charts.

Nearly one in five people with hypertension may be taking medications for other conditions that can unintentionally increase their blood pressure, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.  

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney problems if left untreated. Researchers have known for years that most U.S. adults with hypertension are unsuccessful at achieving the recommended blood pressure targets. One possible contributing factor may be the use of non-hypertensive medications that are known to raise blood pressure.  
In a cross-section study, researchers examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2009 to 2018 to characterize the use of medications that may unintentionally raise blood pressure and their associations with the use of antihypertensive drugs. The study included more than 271,000 adults, of whom half had hypertension and more than a third had uncontrolled hypertension. 
The researchers found that 18.5% of adults— almost one in five—with high blood pressure had taken a medication that increased their blood pressure, and those that did so were more likely to have uncontrolled hypertension if they weren’t taking blood pressure-lowering medications. 

If the study participants were already taking blood pressure medications, they were more likely to need higher doses to control their blood pressure if they also took drugs for other conditions linked to blood pressure increases. The most common non-hypertensive drugs that contributed to increased blood pressure included antidepressants, prescription strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), steroids, and estrogens, the study indicated. 
The researchers suggest that physicians may want to routinely screen patients for medications that may unintentionally contribute to increased blood pressure and consider replacing them with safer alternatives. The study was partly funded by the NHLBI.