Managing High Blood Pressure Medications

handful of pills

When your doctor prescribes blood pressure medication

As part of a solution designed to fit your needs, your doctor may determine that you need prescription medication in addition to lifestyle changes to control your high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension).

Talk to your doctor and pharmacist if you have concerns

While you might have fears and concerns, the long-term health consequences of uncontrolled high blood pressure are often worse than any medication side-effects. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Everyone involved has the same priority — putting your health first.

Getting it right

Treating high blood pressure requires time, patience and care by both you and your doctor. 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. There can be serious side effects if you take a drug that isn’t right for you. Always discuss any medication choices with your doctor and work together to control your blood pressure.
  • Take medications for high blood pressure — exactly as prescribed — for as long as required. 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.
  • 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.
  • If you are having a hard time affording your medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. There may be solutions like assistance programs or generic forms of medication.
  • Tell all of your health care professionals 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 high blood pressure medication. 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 people 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 health care professionals. It’s important to monitor your progress and make adjustments to your treatment to keep your blood pressure under control.
  • Don’t go “doctor shopping” and communicate with everyone involved in your treatment plan. Stick to one reliable doctor or health care professional 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 will sometimes reduce a patient’s drug dosages after achieving normal blood pressure and maintaining it for a year or more, although it is rare for the treatment to be stopped entirely. Some form of treatment must be continued over a lifetime for good results.
  • 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. Medication and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. However, it’s the combination of these factors that’s working, not just lifestyle alone.
  • Track your treatment. Download a printable medication chart (PDF) and blood pressure tracker (PDF).
  • Learn about the lifestyle changes you can make to work with your medication.