In addition to their antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving effects, analgesics may interfere with blood pressure regulation. However, little prospective information is available on the association between analgesic use and the risk of hypertension.
We performed a prospective study of 80 020 women aged 31 to 50 years who participated in the Nurses' Health Study II and had no previous history of hypertension. Frequency of use (in days per month) of aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and acetaminophen was collected by mailed questionnaire in 1995. Incident cases of physician-diagnosed hypertension were identified by self-report on the 1997 biennial questionnaire.
During 164 090 person-years of follow-up, 1650 incident cases of hypertension were identified. At least 1 d/mo, 51.2% of the cohort used aspirin, 76.7% used NSAIDs, and 72.5% used acetaminophen. After adjusting for age, all 3 classes of analgesics were associated with an increased risk of incident hypertension (P<.001 for trend). After further adjustment for all 3 analgesics and other potential risk factors, only NSAIDs and acetaminophen (P<.001 for trend for both) were significantly associated with risk of hypertension. Compared with nonusers, the relative risk of hypertension for women taking NSAIDs 22 d/mo or more was 1.86 (95% confidence interval, 1.51-2.28) and for those taking acetaminophen 22 d/mo or more was 2.00 (95% confidence interval, 1.52-2.62).
Use of NSAIDs and use of acetaminophen were significantly associated with increased risk of hypertension, but aspirin use was not. A substantial proportion of hypertension in the United States, and the associated morbidity and mortality, may be due to the use of these medications.