Over-the-Counter Medications and High Blood Pressure

woman reading labels on pill bottles

It’s best to check with your health care professional or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter medications, supplements or substances if you have high blood pressure. It’s also important for you to understand what you are taking and how it affects your blood pressure.

Read the labels

Read the labels on all over-the-counter medications. Look for warnings for people:

Also look at the amount of sodium in these medications. Some are high in sodium. Look for words such as “sodium” or “soda” on the label. Ask the pharmacist if you can’t tell how much sodium is in an over-the-counter medication.

People with high blood pressure should have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. Just one dose of some medications can contain more than this.

Supplements or natural remedies

Watch out for supplements and natural remedies such as Ma Huang and ephedra. There  are no special pills, vitamins or drinks that can replace prescription medications and lifestyle changes.

Talk to your health care professional before taking any over-the-counter drug or supplement that claims to lower your blood pressure. They may not work as advertised. They also may affect how other medications work. Some can even raise your blood pressure.

Other drugs and substances that can raise your blood pressure include:

  • Alcohol
  • Antidepressants
  • Atypical antipsychotics (such as clozapine and olanzapine)
  • Birth control pills
  • Caffeine
  • Decongestants
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium)
  • Recreational drugs including amphetamines and cocaine 
  • Systemic corticosteroids (such as prednisone and methylprednisolone)

Do not stop taking prescribed medications without talking to your health care professional. 

Interactive Cardiovascular Library Thumbnail image

Watch, Learn and Live

See your cardiovascular system in action with our interactive illustrations and animations.