Lifestyle changes are often the first step to keeping your blood pressure in check. But medication can be another important tool in lowering blood pressure. Here’s everything you need to know about blood pressure meds.
Why do doctors prescribe medicine for high blood pressure?
Blood pressure medicine can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. This can lower your risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack.
How should I take it?
It’s important to take your meds exactly as your doctor has prescribed. Try to make it part of your daily routine. For instance, if you are taking it in the morning, keep it in the bathroom. You can then get in the habit of taking your meds after you brush your teeth. Using a pill organizer can help you remember to take your pills. That also makes it easy to notice if you’ve forgotten one! You can even set reminders on your smartphone.
What are the different types of medicine?
There are several types of blood pressure medications, which all work in different ways to treat high blood pressure. Here are the main types and how they work:
- Diuretics: Help your body get rid of extra sodium and water.
- ACE inhibitors and ARBs: Help your blood vessels relax, which lowers the pressure.
- Beta blockers: Lower your heart rate and make your heart work less hard.
- Calcium channel blockers: Make your heartbeat slower, plus relax your blood vessels.
Are there side effects?
As with all medications, blood pressure pills may cause side effects for some people. If you experience side effects, make sure to tell your doctor. Changes in meds, doses or even timing of dose could help. Depending on the medication, side effects may include:
- A dry cough
- Dizziness with standing up
- Slow or fast heart rate
- Leg cramps or weakness
- Headache or drowsiness
- Skin rash
- Loss of taste
- Cold hands and feet
- Insomnia or tiredness
- Erectile dysfunction
- Changes in blood sugar
- Problems in pregnancy
If you have diabetes, make sure to closely monitor your blood sugar when you start a new medication. And make sure to tell your doctor if you are or may become pregnant.
When can I stop taking blood pressure medication?
You can help your blood pressure by staying active, eating healthy foods and not smoking. Certain foods and exercise can reduce your blood pressure. However, when you have high blood pressure, you’ll need to manage it your whole life. That may mean that you need to take blood pressure medication every day forever.