7 Deadly Mistakes People Make with
Their Blood Pressure Meds
Last updated February 17, 2017 (originally published August 19, 2010)

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By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Does this sound like someone you know? Joan takes two blood
pressure medications and she also likes movies. At the movies,
she always eats licorice candy. Last week, she passed out and
died from a stroke. Her systolic blood pressure has spiked above

Almost 75 million Americans have high blood pressure. Blood
pressure medicine can be a life-saver, but it can also cause deadly
problems. Seven out of every 10 people with high blood pressure
use medication to treat their condition, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, that’s nearly 52.5 million people at potential risk from the
medicines they take every day.

Preventable medication errors affect more than seven million
people and cost around $21 billion a year, according to a 2016
study from Drexel University, Easton, PA. Medication mistakes
cause at least one death a day and around 1.3 million injuries a
year, says the Food and Drug Administration.  Since medication
for high blood pressure is so common, blood pressure medication
errors account for a high proportion of these incidents.

What makes blood pressure medication so potentially dangerous?

If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, what do
you need to watch out for? Any supplements that interact with
blood pressure medications? What about lifestyle factors?

What Are the Most Common Blood Pressure Meds?

If you suffer from high blood pressure you may be prescribed
one or more medications to help control the condition. The
combination of blood pressure medications you take depends on
your individual health and the causes and symptoms of high
blood pressure.

Blood pressure medicines include diuretics, which help rid the
body of excess sodium. Diuretics include potassium-sparing
diuretics, loop diuretics, and combination diuretics. Common
examples of diuretics include chlorthalidone (Hygroton), and
bumetanide (Bumex).

Beta-blockers reduce the workload on the heart and reduce the
heart rate, which can lower blood pressure.

Examples of beta-blockers include acebutolol (Sectral), and
atenolol (Tenormin).

ACE inhibitors are another type of blood pressure medicine. ACE
stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme. Angiotensin causes
arteries to narrow. This type of drug helps reduce the product of
angiotensin, which lowers blood pressure. Generic names include
benazepril hydrochloride (Lotensin) and captopril (Capoten).

Angiotensin II receptor blockers block the effects of angiotensin
and include candesartan (Atacand), and eprosartan mesylate

Calcium channel blockers stop calcium from entering into the
smooth cells of the arteries and the heart, and therefore help to
open up arteries that have become narrowed and reduce blood
pressure. These drugs include amlodipine besylate (Norvasc or

Alpha blockers reduce the resistance on the arteries. Alpha-2
Receptor Agonists, including methyldopa, reduce blood pressure
by reducing the activity of the adrenaline-producing portion of
the body’s involuntary nervous system.

Combined alpha and beta-blockers are often used during a heart
crisis in an IV drip. Central agonists (alpha methyldopa; Aldomet)
stop blood vessels from tensing or contracting.

Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors reduce blood pressure by
blocking the actions of neurotransmitters in the brain. Blood
vessel dilators (vasodilators) help to relax the walls of the major
arteries (hydralazine hydrocholorid; Apresoline).

Why Do People Make Mistakes With Their Blood Pressure

Mistakes can and do occur at all points in the system, from
prescribing to repackaging, dispensing to administering, and at
the actual point when people take the medicines at home.

If you are new to taking medicines for high blood pressure there
can be a lot to understand and remember.

All medicines, but particularly those for high blood pressure, need
to be taken exactly as indicated otherwise they may not work or
they may cause health problems.

How to Manage Your Blood Pressure Medications

In order to remember to take your medicine as prescribed, try to
take it at the same time each day and make it part of your
routine, for example, taking it when you brush your teeth.

Use a piece of paper or a whiteboard to mark off when you take
your pills.

You can buy special drug boxes with labeled sections to keep on
track, and even boxes that have special reminders that sound as
an alarm.

Talk to your physician about the drugs you are taking and what
you need to know about them, for example if you take them on
an empty stomach, or with food. If you don’t feel that they are
making a difference, don’t stop taking the pills but instead speak
to your doctor.

And don’t make these potentially deadly mistakes – take a look at
the major interactions and problems that can occur if you do not
take your blood pressure medication as directed.

Dangers of Mixing Blood Pressure Medicine and Diabetes

If you have diabetes, make sure your physician knows this and
also that you understand how your blood pressure medication
could cause you more harm than good.

A 2016 study from the Department of Public Health and Clinical
Medicine at Umeå University in Sweden shows how some people
with Type 2 diabetes could suffer harmful effects when taking
blood pressure lowering medicine.

Specifically, blood pressure drugs could increase the risk of
cardiovascular death in people with a systolic blood pressure
under 140 mm/Hg. The scientists looked at 49 different clinical
trials and found that people whose blood pressure was
than 140 mm/Hg before taking medication had a lower risk of
heart problems.

But when their blood pressure was less than 140 mm/Hg before
treatment they were at greater risk of death from heart problems.

In other words, taking medicine to
lower your blood pressure
may actually
increase your risk of dying from a heart problem, if
you already have diabetes.

Blood Pressure Medicine Can Cause Serious Injury From Falling

Be careful if you are an older patient and you have a history if
injury from falls – taking medication to treat high blood pressure
is linked with an increased risk of serious injury from falls,
including head injury and hip fracture, according to a 2014 study
from Yale School of Medicine, New Haven.

if you fall and break your hip, you only have a 50% chance
of walking again, studies show.

Researchers looked at data on 4,961 patients who were older
than 70 and had high blood pressure. They found that the risk of
serious injury from falls was higher among those that used high
blood pressure medication.

It could be that falls were caused by the illness itself, but you
should keep in mind that blood pressure medication can cause
dizziness and fainting, particularly if it is not taken correctly.

Licorice and Blood Pressure Medications Don’t Mix

Licorice, which is used as a food and a medicine, affects
potassium levels in the body.  Unfortunately, licorice and blood
pressure meds don't mix.  

The combination of licorice and loop diuretics for high blood
pressure could cause an unexpectedly rapid loss of potassium
from the body, according to a 1992 study from Toride Kyodo
General Hospital, Ibaraki, Japan.

Licorice also makes your body retain sodium which increases
blood pressure, thereby counteracting the effects of high blood
pressure medication.

The bottom line, your blood pressure medicines may not work if
you eat a lot of licorice, according to a 1994 study from the
University of Edinburgh in Scotland, UK.

Steer clear of licorice if you are already suffering from high blood

Zinc Can Cause Problems with Blood Pressure Medicine

If you take potassium-sparing diuretics for high blood pressure
you may suffer from the serious complications of zinc

These type of blood pressure drugs reduce the levels of zinc
being expelled from the body, and if you take zinc supplements
alongside this medicine you could suffer from too much zinc in
the body.

However, if you take ACE inhibitors you may suffer from too little
zinc – these drugs can cause excessive zinc loss, according to a
1990 study from Assaf Harofeh Medical Center, Zerifin, Israel.
Zinc deficiency can lead to side effects like problems with taste,
poor appetite, and
numbness in the skin.

Eating Grapefruit Can Cause Overdose in Blood Pressure

Grapefruit is a danger if you are taking certain blood pressure
medications. It actually blocks an enzyme that metabolizes some
blood pressure drugs, meaning levels of the drug rise higher than
they should, according to the Harvard Medical School Family
Health Guide.

In some cases this rapid rise can be dangerous – particularly with
calcium channel blockers. Just one glass of grapefruit juice can
cause a 47 percent reduction in the enzyme that helps regulate
absorption of the drug.

Deadly Mistakes Happen When People Get The Wrong

Sometimes it is not the fault of the patient with high blood

Time-pressed pharmacists, ineligible handwriting from the
physician, and simple human error account for incidents when a
patient is given a completely different medication – simply
because the names are almost the same; Adderall for ADHD
instead of Inderal for high blood pressure, for example.

A 2016 study from Easton Hospital, Academic Affiliate of Drexel
University, Easton looked at the case of a 71-year-old woman
who accidentally took thiothixene (Navane), an antipsychotic,
instead the blood pressure medicine amlodipine (Norvasc) for
three months.

She suffered from tremors, personality changes, mood swings,
and sensory disturbances, but no one realized until much later
that she had been given the wrong medication.

Blood Pressure Medicine Makes Certain  Existing Conditions
Much Worse

Be careful if you have high blood pressure and another chronic or
serious condition.

For example, chronic kidney disease can be affected by your high
blood pressure medication.

A 2011 study from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
shows how adverse drug effects occur when prescribing blood
pressure medication to people with chronic kidney disease.

High blood pressure meds can also affect mood disorders like
depression and bipolar disorder, according to a 2016 study from
the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

But it depends on exactly what you are taking. Calcium
antagonists and beta blockers are linked to an increased risk for
mood disorders.

But angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin-
receptor blockers seem to
lower the risk of mood disorder.

Researchers looked at data from 525,046 patients. They followed
the patients for five years. They found that patients taking beta-
blockers and calcium antagonists had a two-fold increased risk of
hospital admission for mood disorder, compared to patients on
angiotensin antagonists.

And if you are taking medication for blood thinning effects, like
warfarin, you should be cautious when taking
fish oil as this
supplement can also cause blood thinning, according to a 2004
study from Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Arizona.

Find out more healthy habits to follow to have a healthy
Normal Blood Sugar During Pregnancy /
Ideal Diet to Prevent Preeclampsia / Blood Pressure -What It
Means /Blood Pressure Chart / Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics /
Ideal Breakfast for Hypoglycemia /Foods That Shrink Your
Waist/ Foods That Reduce Blood Pressure
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Eating licorice can stop certain blood pressure
medications from working.