(BPT) – If you’re among the 68 million Americans who have high blood pressure, you may feel that taking your medicine, getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet means you’re doing everything you can to manage your condition. But with cold season in full swing and many areas of the country recording record numbers of flu cases, it might be time for a medicine cabinet makeover as well – a total renovation in which you toss out any over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain decongestants.
That’s because the same ingredients in decongestants that help relieve the nasal swelling associated with congestion also affect other blood vessels in the body, causing blood pressure and heart rate to rise—a potentially dangerous situation for those with high blood pressure. Unfortunately, just 10 percent of those with high blood pressure are aware they should avoid decongestants, and nearly half don’t know they should take a special OTC medicine when they have a cold or the flu, according to a survey by St. Joseph, makers of over-the-counter medications.
“The number of hypertensive people who don’t know to avoid decongestants is shocking,” says Bernie Kropfelder of -St. Joseph Health Products, LLC. “Each year, 5 to 20 percent of Americans will catch the flu, so it’s important for people with high blood pressure to talk to their doctors or pharmacists about which OTC medicines to avoid.”
If you have high blood pressure, start your medicine cabinet makeover by replacing OTC medicines that contain decongestants with remedies that don’t. Use products for fever and pain that contain acetaminophen, which will not interfere with aspirin’s benefits if you’re on an aspirin regimen.
Next, remove from your medicine cabinet, pantry or refrigerator dietary supplements that are high in sodium, as high levels of salt are commonly known to increase blood pressure. For example, many protein supplements contain hundreds of milligrams of sodium per serving.
Likewise, avoid supplements that contain extracts of grapefruit, and talk to your doctor about whether you should also remove grapefruit and grapefruit juice from your diet. Research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal points out that the number of medications that interact adversely with grapefruit is on the rise. There are now more than 85 drugs known to be affected by grapefruit, including calcium channel blockers that are used to treat high blood pressure, according to a CBC News report.
Once you’ve removed adverse products from your medicine cabinet, you’ll have plenty of room for additions that are good for your heart, your high blood pressure and your overall health, including:
- Fish oil—supplements like fish oil that contain omega 3 fatty acids offer a host of health benefits, and are known to be good for your heart. People with high blood pressure are at increased risk of heart disease, so adding heart-healthy supplements to their diets may be beneficial.
- Beet juice—OK, while this one should probably go in your refrigerator, adding beet juice to your diet may help your blood pressure control. Researchers at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia have found that within hours of drinking beet juice, study subjects had lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of four to five points, WebMD reports.
- Sesame and rice bran oil—WebMD also reports that a recent study showed taking 35 grams of a sesame/rice bran oil blend daily can help lower blood pressure.
Finally, add some relaxation time to your “mental medicine cabinet.” Stress can elevate blood pressure, so engaging in activities that help reduce stress can aid in your efforts to control your blood pressure. While it’s not always possible to avoid stressful situations, you can counter the effects of daily stress with activities like meditation, yoga, listening to relaxing music or even just spending time with a beloved pet.