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Popular Pain Relievers Not Linked to Increased Risk of Hypertension in Men

2006-03-26 19:41

Men and Hypertension

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a leading source of research on the public health benefits and potential side effects of over-the-counter pain medications. Previous research has suggested a link between pain reliever use and increased risk of hypertension in women. As the data in women has grown, another BWH team set out to further define the association in men. Now, BWH epidemiologists studying the medication and health habits of participants in the landmark Physician's Health Study report that frequent use of analgesics and specific use of acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and aspirin does not appear to substantially increase a man's risk of developing hypertension. The findings are published in the September 12, 2005 issue of the journal, Archives of Internal Medicine.

Over-the-counter pain relievers are one of the most commonly used classes of medications.

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"The incidence of hypertension, one of the leading causes of stroke and heart attack, has increased over the last decades and obesity seems to be a major contributing factor, but there may be other factors driving this trend such as changes in medication use," said lead author Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD, a researcher in BWH's Divisions of Aging and Preventive Medicine. "Given the data linking analgesics and hypertension in women and widespread use of over-the-counter analgesics in general, we were interested in looking at the potential hypertensive side effects of commonly used pain relievers in men. Contrary to what has been reported in women, we did not observe a significant trend toward increased risk of hypertension among men who frequently consumed over-the-counter pain medications. However, with all observational studies small to moderate effects cannot be ruled out."

The data was based on more than 8,200 healthy male physicians between the ages of 53 and 97 enrolled in the Physicians' Health Study. The men filled out questionnaires about their cumulative analgesic use and reported diagnosis of hypertension over a six-year period. After controlling for a variety of factors including body mass index, smoking status and physical activity levels, the researchers found no apparent association between men who consumed high levels of pain relievers and increased incidence of hypertension.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and by an investigator-initiated, unrestricted research grant from McNeil Consumer

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