What do I need to know about medicines?

Medicines to lower high blood pressure are called antihypertensives. There are several kinds and they work in different ways. These medicines can help lower your blood pressure by affecting:

  • the force of your heart's pumping action
  • the width of your blood vessels, which affects how much room there is for blood to flow inside them
  • the amount of fluid in your blood and body

You may work to make healthy changes to your lifestyle and find that your blood pressure is still not under control. If this is the case for you, your doctor may prescribe from a broad selection of medicines to help. Many people don't want to take blood pressure medicines. If you're one of them, keep the following in mind. Taking medicines to lower your blood pressure can help you avoid a heart attack, stroke, and the many other serious health problems caused by high blood pressure. In fact, most people with high blood pressure can control it with one or more medicines.

How does my doctor decide which medicine is for me?

There is no single blood pressure medicine or combination of medicines that works for everyone. Your doctor will recommend treatment to help you lower your blood pressure based on:

  • your overall health status, including other diseases you have that may be affected by the medicine you will take to lower your blood pressure
  • side effects of the medicine and how well you tolerate them
  • cost of the medicine
  • other medicines you may be taking
  • how severe your high blood pressure is
  • how high your risk is for complications from high blood pressure
  • your exercise routine and diet habits

You may start to take one medicine or combination of medicines and find it is not right for you. It will help you to be patient while your doctor decides what treatment will work the best for your condition. Be sure to communicate regularly with your doctor about any side effects you experience and how the medicine you take makes you feel.

When you need more than one pill. Your doctor would like to lower your blood pressure as quickly and safely as possible, and keep it at that level. Sometimes this is not possible with just one medicine. Then, too, each person reacts differently to medicines, so your therapy must be customized to fit you. Your doctor may think that a combination of medicines will work better for you than one medicine alone. If so, you will be put on combination therapy. The term combination therapy can mean one of two things. It may mean that you take two or more pills. Or it may mean that you take what is called a combined medicine, which means there are two medicines in one pill. It's often possible to use lower doses of each medicine in a combination product, and that means side effects may be reduced.

How much do I need?

Your doctor will start your medicine at the lowest possible dosage. Doing so helps prevent your blood pressure from dropping too quickly and other unwanted side effects. You'll need to see your doctor again within 30 to 60 days. Your doctor will check to see how your medicine is working and will adjust it if necessary. Remember, since you can't feel high blood pressure, you need to get your pressure checked to see how well the medicine is working.

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