Over-the-Counter Medicines and Heart Health

With cold and flu season hitting early and hard, many of us will find ourselves browsing the medicine aisles at the drugstore, grocery, or health food store looking for over-the-counter medications or supplements to help relieve symptoms or boost immunity. All the claims about improved health and quicker recovery can be confusing for anyone, but heart patients always need to consider what effect these medications, vitamins, and supplements may have on their heart health.

The two most common risks for heart patients include over-the-counter (OTC) medications interacting with heart-related prescriptions or potentially raising their blood pressure. For example, some common decongestants work to relieve congestion in the upper respiratory system but also narrow blood vessels, which results in higher blood pressure. Medications that have a high sodium content can also have a detrimental effect on those with high blood pressure.

Here are some actions heart patients can take to ensure the safety of OTC medications with their heart condition.

Talk to your doctor

One of the most important things any heart patient can do regarding OTC medications, vitamins, and supplements is talk to their doctor. When considering a new vitamin or supplement, your doctor can advise you about potential interactions or any research surrounding the effectiveness of the supplement.

Read the packaging carefully

Always read the packaging provided for any new medication, both prescription and over-the-counter medications. It’s a good idea to read the packaging even if it’s a medication you’ve taken in the past, since formulas can change for OTC medications. The box or inserted written materials can alert you to potential interactions with other medicines or supplements you take.

Ask your pharmacist

Pharmacists are trained to know side effects and interactions of many different medications. If you have questions as you shop, most pharmacies will have staff readily available to answer them.

The good news is that there are many OTC medications, vitamins, and supplements that are safe for heart patients to take. You do not need to suffer through respiratory viruses or other illnesses without relief. But please be aware that some options may interact with your current medications, and some may be safer or preferable for your situation. If you have any questions, contact your OHH physician’s office.