Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects 1 in 3 Americans and can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. Ibuprofen, sold under brand names including Advil and Motrin, is a common over-the-counter medication and has been in the headlines as a medication to avoid in those who have had a heart attack. Women with high blood pressure should know the risks before taking any over-the-counter pain reliever.
Hypertension is defined by the American Heart Association as blood pressure readings above 140/90 mmHg, where either the top number -- systolic pressure -- is above 140 mmHg and/or the bottom number -- diastolic pressure -- is above 90 mmHg. A normal blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg or less may lower your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.
The diagnosis of hypertension can only be made by your health care provider, but you should have your blood pressure checked at least once every 2 years. Many pharmacies have free blood pressure monitors you can use. If you have not had your pressure checked in a while, checking it with the machine may let you know if you need to see your doctor. If you get an above-normal reading, go see your doctor as soon as possible.
Ibuprofen, an over-the-counter pain reliever, is commonly used to treat many ailments, from fevers to muscle aches. It falls in the category of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs because it works by lessening those chemicals in the body that cause inflammation and discomfort. It is sold under many brand names, including Motrin and Advil. It is also an ingredient in prescription pain medications or a component of cold or sinus medications. Although generally accepted as a safe drug, there is a risk of gastrointestinal side effects, including ulcers. Always read the warning label before using any medication to familiarize yourself with possible adverse effects.
Every medication poses certain risks of side effects. For people with high blood pressure, NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, have been demonstrated in less than 1 percent of people to raise blood pressure. Taking ibuprofen may make medications that lower blood pressure less effective.
Most importantly, there is concern if you have previously had a heart attack because taking NSAIDs may increase the risk of another heart attack, even increasing your risk of death. The current recommendation from the American Heart Association is that you try other medications for aches and pains before using ibuprofen or other NSAIDs. If you have a history of high blood pressure or other cardiovascular disease, always check with your doctor before starting a new medication.
Before taking any medication, even over-the-counter medications, it is always best to discuss the options with your doctor. Ibuprofen has been associated with an increased risk of bleeding, stomach upset, kidney damage and interactions with other medications. If you have high blood pressure, ibuprofen may still be an option, but your doctor will be able to best evaluate this. If you take prescription medications, ask your pharmacist about interactions with over-the-counter medications you may be considering.