High Blood Pressure
Treating High Blood Pressure
In most cases, your goal is probably to keep your blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg (130/80 if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease). Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Ask your doctor what your blood pressure goal should be.
Healthier Habits Can Help
Some people can prevent or control high blood pressure by changing to healthier habits, such as
- following a healthy eating plan that includes fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk products, and whole grains
- cutting down on salt and sodium in the diet
- losing weight if overweight or obese and staying at a healthy weight
- being physically active for at least 2 and one-half hours a week
- limiting alcohol intake
- quitting smoking, if you smoke
- learning to cope with stress.
A Lifelong Focus
If you have high blood pressure, you will need to treat it and control it for life. This means making lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, taking prescribed medicines, and getting ongoing medical care.
Treatment can help control blood pressure, but it will not cure high blood pressure, even if your blood pressure readings appear normal. If you stop treatment, your blood pressure and risk for related health problems will rise. For a healthy future, follow your treatment plan closely. Work with your health care team for lifelong blood pressure control.
Common Blood Pressure Medications
Blood pressure medicines work in different ways to lower blood pressure. Some drugs lower blood pressure by removing extra fluid and salt from your body. Others affect blood pressure by slowing down the heartbeat, or by relaxing and widening blood vessels. Often, two or more drugs work better than one.
Here are the types of medicines used to treat high blood pressure.
- Diuretics are sometimes called "water pills." They work by helping your kidneys flush excess water and salt from your body. This reduces the amount of fluid in your blood, and your blood pressure goes down. There are different types of diuretics. They are often given with other high blood pressure medicines and may be combined with another medicine in one pill.
- Beta blockers cause your heart to beat more slowly and with less force. Your heart pumps less blood through the blood vessels, and your blood pressure goes down.
- Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors keep your body from making a hormone called angiotensin II, which normally causes blood vessels to narrow. ACE inhibitors prevent this narrowing so your blood pressure goes down.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBS) are blood pressure drugs that protect your blood vessels from angiotensin II. They make the blood vessels relax and become wider, and your blood pressure goes down.
- Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels. This causes blood vessels to relax, and your blood pressure goes down.
- Vasodilators open blood vessels by directly relaxing the muscle in the vessel walls, causing blood pressure to go down.
Less Common Medications
Other, less commonly used types of medicines to treat high blood pressure include: (cont'd)
- Alpha blockers reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels, allowing blood to pass more easily and causing blood pressure to go down.
- Alpha-beta blockers reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels the same way alpha blockers do, but they also slow the heartbeat, as beta blockers do. As a result, blood pressure goes down.
- Nervous system inhibitors relax blood vessels by controlling nerve impulses from the brain. This causes blood vessels to become wider and blood pressure to go down.
After You Start Medication
If your blood pressure continues to measure 140/90 mmHg or higher (130/80 or higher if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease) after you start taking medicine, your doctor may need to add a second drug or try you on different medicines until you find one that helps you reach your goal.
Be sure to talk with your doctor or health care provider about side effects from your medications, and don't make any changes to your medications without talking with your doctor first.
Remembering to Take Your Medications
It is important that you take your blood pressure medication the same time each day. There are a few tips to make this easier to remember.
- Try to link it with something else that you do regularly, like brushing your teeth.
- If your doctor tells you to take your pills with food, try taking them with the same meal every day.
- Another way to remember to take your blood pressure medication is to write it down. Put a reminder note on the refrigerator, by the phone, on the medicine cabinet, or even on the bathroom mirror. Try changing the message frequently, using different colors to get your attention, or moving the notes to a different spot.
- Try keeping a chart or calendar to write down when you take your drugs. Keep this calendar posted so you can quickly see if you've taken your drugs. Use colored pens to help you keep track of more than one type of medication.
- Try using a special pillbox that helps keep your pills organized. You can buy these containers at most drugstores or pharmacies.
- Ask for help. Family or friends can be a great support system. Put together a team. If you have friends who also take medication, help remind each other.
- Put a favorite picture of yourself or a loved one on the refrigerator with a note that says, "Remember to Take Your High Blood Pressure Medicine."
- Take your high blood pressure drugs right after you brush your teeth and keep them with your toothbrush as a reminder.
- Ask a friend or relative to call your telephone answering machine to remind you to take your high blood pressure drugs and DO NOT erase the message.
- If you use the telephone company's voice mail service, record a reminder for yourself and the service can automatically call you every day at the same time.
- If you have a smartphone, find out about texting services and applications (apps) that can send reminiders.
- Establish a buddy system with a friend who also is on daily medication and arrange to call each other every day with a reminder to "take your medicine."
- Ask one or more of your children or grandchildren to call you every day with a quick reminder. It's a great way to stay in touch and little ones love to help the grown-ups.
- If you have a personal computer, program a start-up reminder to take your high blood pressure drugs or sign up with one of the free services that will send you reminder e-mail every day.
- Remember to refill your prescription. Each time you pick up a refill, make a note on your calendar to order and pick up the next refill one week before the medicine is due to run out.