Taking over-the-counter cold medicine can put your heart at risk

Whether it’s skipping that cheeseburger or going an extra mile, we perform countless calculations every day to increase our chances of having better heart health. Still, experts say there’s one thing you may be doing that could seriously harm your heart’s well-being, and you probably have no idea it has an effect. The Mayo Clinic points out that there is a type of over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicine that could harm your heart in several ways, and if you have a particular cardiovascular condition, it’s best to avoid it altogether. . Read on to find out which over-the-counter medications could put your heart at risk and what experts recommend taking instead.

RELATED: If You’ve Taken Tylenol Along With These Common OTC Medications, Get Your Liver Checked.


Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a serious chronic disease that causes narrowing of the arteries. It occurs as a result of atherosclerosis, a process by which fatty plaques build up inside the arteries, leading to poor circulation. The condition currently affects between eight and 12 million people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

People with PAD often experience symptoms in the legs and arms, including pain, cramping, weakness, numbness, etc. However, it can also have serious consequences for your overall health. Since the same fatty deposits that cause PAD can also cause clots, people with the disease are at increased risk of limb amputation, heart attack, and stroke.

RELATED: Never take these 2 common over-the-counter medications at the same time, experts warn.

Close up cold medicine

Several lifestyle factors can make your PAD symptoms worse: tobacco use, poor diet, and a sedentary lifestyle, to name a few. But there’s another lesser-known factor that could put you at risk, and it may be lurking in your medicine cabinet.

The Mayo Clinic advises that if you have peripheral arterial disease, it’s important to avoid certain cold medications. In particular, you should be wary of “over-the-counter cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine (Advil Cold & Sinus, Aleve-D Sinus & Cold, others)” which they say “may increase your symptoms of PAD.” Some allergy medications, such as Mucinex-D and Claritin-D, also contain pseudoephedrine.

older black woman having her blood pressure taken at her home by a young black female medical professional

Pseudoephedrine works to aid decongestion by constricting blood vessels in the nasal passages and sinuses, slowing mucus production. However, experts from the University of Virginia health blog, UVA Healthwarn that “those same narrowed vessels can also increase your blood pressure and heart rate.”

That’s because “pseudoephedrine is chemically similar to adrenaline, so the body recognizes it as adrenaline, causing blood pressure and heart rate to rise,” the pharmacist said. Kayla Ryan explained via the site.

If you’re concerned about your heart health, there are alternative medications made with ingredients that won’t raise blood pressure. “If you’re looking for a safe cold medicine for high blood pressure, consider Coricidin,” UVA experts write. “Coricidin is an over-the-counter multi-symptom product marketed specifically for patients with high blood pressure. It comes in many varieties and contains different active ingredients that target coughs, colds, chest congestion and allergies.”

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If you have a known case of peripheral arterial disease, experts at the Mayo Clinic say it’s a good idea to keep one running list of all the medications, vitamins and supplements you take, and take note of the dosage. of each one. Passing this information on to your doctor can be especially helpful, as they may prescribe additional medications to treat the PAD itself, which carries an increased risk of dangerous drug interactions.

PAD treatment often includes medication to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, control pain, and minimize other symptoms. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned about how your medications may interact, particularly if you have taken pseudoephedrine cold medicines with a known case of PAD, and be sure to always read prescription and over-the-counter drug labels. .

RELATED: If you’re over 60, don’t take this over-the-counter drug every day, officials say.

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