Common painkillers raise mens' risk of hypertension

Researchers in the United States believe that regular use of common painkillers such as Acetaminophen (paracetomol), ibuprofen and aspirin, increases the risk of high blood pressure and consequently heart disease in men.

Another recent major study has also revealed that the analgesics of pain receiving medications could be related to increased hypertension in women, while another study found that a healthy man did not normally have an increased risk of acquiring hypertension through the regular use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain killers.

A team at Brigham and Women's Hospital, studied 16,031 male health professionals with an average age of 64 plus years.

They did not suffer from high blood pressure at the start of the study, and their use of three kinds of pain relievers and the regularity of their use was first studied in the year 2000 and then followed up in 2002. They were were then studied for indications of hypertension.

Lead researcher Dr. John P. Forman, says over the course of these four years 1,968 of the men developed signs of hypertension.

In comparison, men who had refrained from taking analgesics but used acetaminophen, such as Tylenol as often as once a week, now had an increased 34% risk of hypertension.

Those who took NSAIDs , including ibuprofen and naproxen, on an almost daily basis had a higher risk of 38%, while those using aspirin as regularly showed a risk of as much as 26%.

It appears that compared to men who took no pills those taking fifteen or more pills every week raised the risk of hypertension by 48%.

The scientists suggest that the analgesics impede the action of chemicals that loosen up the blood vessels and decrease blood pressure but they also suspect that cell functioning could be impaired by acetaminophen due to the decrease in function of blood vessel lining.

They advise that such drugs be used more cautiously.

The researchers also found that the risks from taking acetaminophen were lowered if a person was overweight, but the obesity put the subject at greater risk than the use of nonsteroidal drugs.

However the researchers say that men who are advised by a doctor to take an aspirin a day to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke should not stop taking them, as the benefit outweighed the risk.

Experts recommend that doctors should advise an exercise program, weight loss and physical therapy before suggesting these drugs.

The American Heart Association is concerned over the use of COX-2 inhibitors, of which Celebrex is the only one of this group presently on sale in the United States and suggest they should be used only "as a last resort."

The researchers concluded that the use of non-narcotic analgesics such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen (paracetomol) is associated with a moderate increase in blood pressure.

The finding has important implications for public health as such medications are in widespread use throughout America.

The American Heart Association calls high blood pressure the "silent killer".

It is associated with increased risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, arterial aneurysm and kidney failure.

It is estimated that 72 million Americans aged 20 and over have high blood pressure (about one in three adults), and over 50,000 of them are killed by it every year.

Most people with high blood pressure are unaware of their condition.

Acetaminophen is commonly known as Tylenol and Panadol and is available over the counter; it has analgesic (painkilling) and antipyretic (fever reducing) effects but is not effective as an anti-inflammatory.

NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin are also available over the counter and are effective as painkillers, fever reducers and anti-inflammatories.

There are hundreds of different NSAIDs, with broadly similar properties, the main differences being in the way they are taken, tolerance by patients, and how long they last in the body before being eliminated.

The study the "Frequency of Analgesic Use and Risk of Hypertension Among Men" is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

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