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Painkillers may increase blood pressure: study



August 5, 2005: A heavy dose of painkillers every day may not be such a good idea. A study in the US has reported that women using painkillers on a daily basis are 90% more likely to contract hypertension. The culprit drugs found by the study are common painkillers ibuprofen and acetaminophen. These two ingredients are widely used in a variety of painkillers in a range of strengths.

The study on the risks of ibuprofen and acetaminophen was conducted at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who surveyed over 5000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study.

Some of the popular over-the-counter brands using these painkillers are 
Tylenol, Panadol and Liquiprin. 

Ibuprofen is marketed under Advil and Motrin brand names. Painkiller like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are called analgesics, which numb pain. Ibuprofen is narrowed into a division called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Aspirin is a member of the NSAID class, but it has not been found to have any such side-effects on blood pressure. 

According to Dr John Forman, a hypertension specialist in the hospital's division of renal medicine, "given the widespread use of painkillers, especially among women, it is critical to understand the potential side effects associated with frequent, high-dose consumption."

For the purposes of study, the women were divided into groups, one in a younger age group and the other in an older age group. The study on the side-effects of painkillers found that older women who consumed the highest doses of acetaminophen, (500 milligrams daily) faced a 93% higher risk of hypertension, compared to those who refrained. Among the younger lot, those who regularly consumed the painkillers faced the double the risk of hypertension as compared to non-users. Older women who routinely daily consumed 400 mg ibuprofen a day faced a risk of hypertension of 78%; while for the younger lot, was higher by 60%.

Arguments against common painkillers have been mounting for a while, with Vioxx by Merck being pulled off the shelves recently over risks of heart attack and stroke.

However, the study has not found how the painkillers ibuprofen and acetaminophen jack up blood pressure in users. It is hypothesized that high dosages of the painkillers affect the kidney's functioning, throwing blood pressure off balance. 


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