NSAIDs and blood pressure. Clinical importance for older patients

Drugs Aging. 1998 Jan;12(1):17-27. doi: 10.2165/00002512-199812010-00003.


The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and antihypertensive medication increases with age to 26% and > 50%, respectively, among the elderly. Overall, 12 to 15% of elderly individuals take at least 1 NSAID and an antihypertensive medication concurrently. A large case-control study of older individuals demonstrated that recent users of NSAIDs had a 1.7-fold increase in risk of initiating antihypertensive therapy compared with non-users. A community-based epidemiological study revealed that NSAID use significantly predicted the presence of hypertension (odds ratio 1.4, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 1.7) in the elderly. Furthermore, among those taking antihypertensive agents in the 65+ Rural Health Study, in Iowa, US, individuals also taking NSAIDs had a mean systolic blood pressure (BP) 4.9 mm Hg higher than non-users of NSAIDs. The hypertensive effect of NSAIDs varies depending on the specific NSAID used and the type of antihypertensive agent, if they are taken concurrently. While the results of randomised, controlled trials in the elderly have been conflicting, 2 meta-analyses involving younger adults have revealed that NSAID use produces a clinically significant increment in mean BP of 5.0 mm Hg, which is most marked in patients with controlled hypertension. Stratification by NSAID type has revealed that piroxicam and indomethacin had the greatest, and sulindac the least, pressor effect. While the mechanisms) of the pressor effect remain speculative, salt and water retention, caused by several factors operating in parallel, coupled with an increased total peripheral vascular resistance via increased renal endothelin-1 synthesis, are potentially important. A 5 to 6 mm Hg increase in diastolic BP maintained over a few years may be associated with a 67% increase in total stroke occurrence and a 15% increase in events associated with coronary heart disease. Clinicians should strive to avoid excessive use of NSAID treatment and consider alternative, well-tolerated therapeutic options, including simple analgesics and physical therapy. For patients who require concomitant NSAID and antihypertensive treatment, clinicians should be aware of the greater hypertensive effect of indomethacin and piroxicam compared with alternative NSAIDs, and the potential for relatively greater antagonism by NSAIDs of the BP-lowering effect of beta-blockers compared with other antihypertensives. Finally, the progress of each patient should be monitored by careful BP measurement particularly during the initiation of NSAID therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal