Study links naproxen to hypertension, bleeding

TUESDAY, JUNE 29, 2010

Q. I have taken naproxen regularly for the past several years, having had knee replacement and shoulder surgery. When I take naproxen, my blood pressure goes up from 115/70 to about 145/94.

I was told my blood pressure problem was unrelated to the drug, but when I quit taking naproxen, my blood pressure went back down to 115/70. I can’t find anything about this and wonder what else I can do for pain.

A. A recent report from Denmark (Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, July 2010) involved reviewing the health records of more than 1 million people taking NSAID pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren, etc.), celecoxib (Celebrex) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn, etc.). The investigators found that, except for naproxen, “most NSAIDs are associated with increased cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.”

Although you discovered that naproxen raises your blood pressure, this medicine is the only one in the study that did not increase the risk for heart attack or stroke. It is, however, associated with hypertension and gastrointestinal bleeding, so benefits and risks must be weighed carefully.

We are sending you our Guides to Alternatives for Arthritis and Blood Pressure Treatment so that you can find some less conventional ways to manage your pain without affecting your blood pressure. Anyone who would like copies, please send $5 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. AB-62, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. They also can be downloaded for $2 each from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q. Did you say that potatoes are like white flour? Aren’t potatoes good for you? I thought potatoes were complex carbohydrates.

A. The distinction between simple (sugar) and complex (starch) carbohydrates is not as useful as it once seemed. Now, nutrition scientists consider the glycemic index of a food: how quickly it makes blood sugar rise compared with a piece of white bread. Potatoes act a lot like white bread, with a glycemic index of 89 out of 100. (See www.glycemicindex.com.)

Q. I have a home remedy to prevent sunburn, and you may not have heard of it. I take three aspirin about an hour before I go into the sun, and an additional aspirin each hour I stay out after the first hour, stopping an hour before I end my sun exposure.

I am usually in the sun for four to six hours at a time, once or twice a month during the summer. Most of that time is in direct sunlight. In case you are wondering, my ancestry is from northern Europe, and I am paper-white. I usually get a little pink, but do not burn, hurt or peel.

A. Your remedy is unusual, but several years ago we heard from someone else who found aspirin helpful against sunburn. That prompted us to search the medical literature for studies.

Relatively little research has been done, but a German study found that pretreatment with 250 mg of aspirin prevented sunburn (Photochemistry and Photobiology, October 2001). That’s a lot lower than the dose you take, which could cause serious stomach damage.

Scientists from Estee Lauder also presented evidence that topical salicylic acid could protect skin from ultraviolet radiation damage (Journal of Cosmetic Science, March-April 2006). Salicylic acid is available in some over-the-counter acne preparations, but it is not promoted for burn prevention.

The best protection from sunburn continues to be avoiding midday sun and using protective clothing and sunscreen when exposed. Your aspirin approach is an interesting addition.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. E-mail them via their Web site: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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