Blood Pressure Medications
• Hypertension Medications
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If you have tried lifestyle changes but are still unable to control your blood pressure, or if you are at high risk for complications, a doctor will prescribe one or more medications (called antihypertensives) to lower your levels. These drugs need to be taken continually, if you stop, your blood pressure (bp) will rise again. Most antihypertensives are extremely effective, not only in controlling hypertension, but also in lowering your risk of stroke and heart attack risk factors. There are many different types of drugs and drug combinations, and you will need to work closely with your doctor to find the correct one for you. If you have not been taking medications until now, and you feel quite healthy, you probably won't look forward to the idea of taking pills that may have side effects as well as being expensive. Try not to let this discourage you. The symptoms of hypertension are silent, yet they can be deadly. Taking bp drugs literally can save your life. If cost is a problem ask your doctor about generic (low-cost) drugs. Most bp medications have been around long enough now to be be available in generic form.
If you have stage 1 hypertension (140/90 to 159/99 mm Hg) your doctor will recommend trying lifestyle changes for a few months. Only if these changes have no effect will medications be prescribed. A diuretic may be the only medication you need. But in some cases a doctor may also recommend another drug or prescribe an additional medication. If you have severe hypertension (stage 2, higher than 160/100 mm Hg) you are likely to be prescribed 2 or more medications immediately. If you need to take 3 or more medications to control your bp, you should talk to your doctor about testing for a secondary cause. It may be that your hypertension is a side effect of another underlying condition (like thyroid disease or kidney problems). Treating the underlying cause will often cause the hypertension to disappear.
Here is a summary of the main blood pressure medications:
Diuretics (Water Pills)
This is a very common question. Let’s say you have been taking bp meds for the past year and your blood pressure readings have returned to normal. Does this mean you can stop taking your medications? Probably not. Most people are never able to stop treatment altogether. But the good news is, if your bp has returned to healthier levels it shows your drugs are working. Yet drugs are not a permanent fix - if you stop taking them, your bp is likely to start to rise again. That said if your levels have been low for at least a year, it is important for your doctor to look at his original hypertension diagnosis for any contributory factors. For example, if you were clinically obese at the time of your original diagnosis but have subsequently lost 7 to 10 percent of your body weight, this may have a natural effect in lowering your bp levels. In this instance your doctor might gradually reduce your dosage, monitoring your reaction closely. Occasionally some people who lose weight and adopt healthier lifestyle patterns (see hypertension prevention) do manage to stop taking meds altogether (although it is recommended that they continue to use a home blood pressure monitor to watch out for any changes). Remember: never stop taking bp medications or make any changes to your dosage without first consulting your doctor.
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