Your doctor may determine that you need prescription medication in addition to lifestyle changes to control your high blood pressure. It's not possible to make a one-size-fits-all rule about when to begin taking medication. This is a decision for you and your doctor, considering your age, body mass index, activity level, other risk factors and blood pressure readings taken over time.
As reluctant as you may be to take a prescription, the health consequences of high blood pressure are serious and cumulative. The sooner you begin to put your health first, the better.
How can I make the most of the prescribed treatment?
Treating HBP may require lots of time, patience and care by both your doctor and you as the patient. The important thing is for you to communicate with your doctor and to follow his/her course of treatment.
- Don't insist that your doctor prescribe certain drugs because you've read or heard about its effect on other people. You can have a serious side effect if you take a "wonder drug" that isn't right for you. Discuss with your doctor the best drug option for you.
- Take medications for HBP exactly as prescribed for as long as instructed by your doctor. Don't run out of pills for even one day. Taking a pill every other day or splitting your pills in half to make them last longer is actually decreasing your dosage and may be dangerous. Your blood pressure can rise to dangerous levels, putting you at risk for heart attack, stroke, heart failure and kidney failure. Print our medicine chart to help you keep track of all your medications. Also available in Spanish.
- You may need more than one prescription. Because different drugs do different things in the body, you may need more than one medication to properly manage your blood pressure.
- Tell all of your healthcare providers about all of the over-the-counter and prescription drugs you are taking. Some drugs and supplements can raise blood pressure and/or interfere with the effectiveness of prescription medication used against HBP. These drugs can include: steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), nasal decongestants and other cold remedies, diet pills, cyclosporine, erythropoietin, tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors.
- Be patient if it takes time to find the right dose for you. If you have side effects, tell your doctor. Different patients can respond very differently to medications. Everyone has to go through a trial period to find out which medications work best with the fewest side effects. Give yourself a chance to adjust to a drug. It may take several weeks, but the results will usually be worth it. If you don't feel well after taking a medication, let your doctor know so he/she can adjust your treatment. Never change or stop taking prescribed medications unless directed by your doctor.
- Keep appointments with your healthcare professionals. It's important to monitor your progress and make adjustments to your treatment to keep your blood pressure under control.
- Don't go from one doctor to the next looking for a quick, easy "miracle drug." Stick to one reliable doctor or healthcare provider and follow through with your treatment plan. If you're working with a primary care doctor and a specialist, make sure that each knows what the other has prescribed. Using one pharmacy for all your prescriptions also helps avoid dangerous drug interactions.
- Expect to treat high blood pressure for life. Doctors sometimes reduce their patients' drug dosages after achieving normal blood pressure and maintaining it for a year or more, although rarely is treatment stopped entirely. Some form of treatment must be continued over a lifetime for good results. Coping with the inconvenience of medication is much better than suffering a stroke or heart attack. Most people who follow their treatment plan and successfully manage their blood pressure live a long and healthy life.
- Even if you're feeling fine, NEVER cut back or quit taking the prescribed medication. Never stop taking prescribed drugs, including medications that lower blood pressure, without consulting your doctor. If you feel that your diet, increased physical activity or other lifestyle modifications have lowered your blood pressure, then discuss recent blood pressure measurements with your doctor.
This content was last reviewed on 08/04/2014.