Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can actually raise your blood pressure. These include antidepressants, decongestants, birth control pills and acetaminophen. It may also surprise you to know that the routine use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can lead to a blood pressure problem. They can also affect how some blood pressure pills work. “I see many patients who are taking naproxen or ibuprofen on a daily basis,” says Richard Ward, MD, a family physician with Calgary Foothills Primary Care Network. “They should monitor their blood pressure, particularly if they’re on it for a long period of time.”
2. Herbal supplements
Natural remedies can have side effects, too, and sometimes they affect either your blood pressure or the way your blood pressure medication is working. Particular pills to watch out for include bitter orange (also called Seville orange or zhi shi), ephedra (ma-huang), ginseng, St. John’s wort, garlic, ginkgo, hawthorn and licorice root. If you’re being treated for hypertension, it’s important to let your doctor know which herbal supplements you’re taking.
3. Sleep deprivation
Studies suggest that sleeping less than six hours at night might cause high blood pressure, or make an existing hypertensive condition worse. Researchers believe that adequate sleep is important for regulating stress hormones and keeping your nervous system in good health, both factors in maintaining healthy blood pressure. The recommendation? Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
4. Drinking fructose
As if we need yet another reason to cut back on added sugar: In a 2010 study from the University of Colorado, men and women who consumed more fructose were more likely to develop high blood pressure. Fructose is a common ingredient in soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks and flavored water. Want a drink that may help lower your hypertension? The University of Western Australia recently released evidence that three cups of black tea a day can significantly lower blood pressure.
5. Alcohol and recreational drugs
More from the what-not-to-drink department: Although small amounts of alcohol may have some health benefits, heavy drinking can boost your blood pressure or interfere with the medications you’re taking to control it. So can recreational drugs like cocaine and amphetamines. Bottom line? Just say no.
6. Stressing out
We’re still learning about the links between stress and blood pressure. We do know that when you’re feeling stressed, your blood pressure can temporarily surge higher. What’s not clear yet is whether chronic stress by itself leads to long-term hypertension. But it’s safe to say that when you’re stressed out, you may be more likely to eat too much, drink too much and not sleep enough, which are all causes of hypertension. Plus if you’re under stress, your self-care often suffers. You may skip your blood pressure medications, for example. But stress management techniques like exercise and meditation can help to reduce your blood pressure, so why not reap all the benefits at once?
The more we know about factors that increase blood pressure, the easier it is to avoid them. “If we live long enough, about 95 percent of us will develop high blood pressure,” Dr. Ward points out. “But by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, we can push off that inevitable increase in blood pressure as long as possible.”