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Step 10: Drug therapy
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Many people with high blood pressure do not have it under control -- including many people taking high blood pressure medications. It is important to take medication consistently and as directed by a physician. Also, see your physician regularly.

Drug treatment of high blood pressure can significantly reduce the chance of death from heart disease and stroke and the risk of developing other serious health problems.

You may be given one or more drugs for your high blood pressure. In fact, most people with high blood pressure need two or more medications.

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Recommendations for specific types of patients.

Types of blood pressure medication

Dozens of high blood pressure drugs are available. They usually fall into the following categories:

  • Diuretics, which cause the body to excrete water and salt
  • ACE inhibitors, which reduce the production of angiotensin (a hormone that would otherwise cause arteries to constrict)
  • Beta blockers, which expand (widen) blood vessels, lower the heart rate, and ease the heart's workload
  • Calcium channel blockers, which help relax and expand blood vessels
  • Other drugs, including angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), direct renin inhibitors, and vasodilators (which relax blood vessels)

How often will I see the doctor?

When medication is first started, your doctor will want to see you back in the office within 1 - 2 months (possibly sooner). Once your blood pressure is under good control on your new drug regimen, the doctor will see you every 3 - 6 months.

Side effects

If you are on medication, you might find the side effects bothersome. If this occurs, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to switch you to a different medication or adjust the dose. Make sure that this is done with your doctor's guidance. Do not stop taking medication or change the dose on your own.

Stopping high blood pressure medications

If your blood pressure has been well-controlled for at least 1 year and you are able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, you may be able to gradually stop taking hypertensive medications. This should be done in a step-down manner (gradual reduction) under the guidance of your physician. Stopping too quickly can have adverse effects, including serious effects on the heart.

Never change your medication on your own -- always follow the guidance of your physician.


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Review Date: 6/8/2011
Reviewed By: Steven Kang, MD, Division of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology, East Bay Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Consultants Medical Group, Oakland, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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