High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common and often silent condition. You may have high blood pressure for several years before you begin to experience its symptoms. High blood pressure can have serious consequences if left untreated, including the risk of stroke and heart attack. Without treatment, hypertension also increases your risk of developing other serious health complications such as endocarditis, chronic kidney disease, and retinal bleeding. Fortunately, there are various drug therapies that can alleviate high blood pressure safely and effectively in most cases. Your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes as your first line of defense against blood pressure that’s consistently above normal levels. However, in some cases, pharmacotherapy is necessary to safeguard your health going forward. Read on to learn more about your treatment options for high blood pressure.
Check Your Blood Pressure Regularly
You can’t know for sure if you have high blood pressure unless you have it checked regularly. Even if you have no symptoms of hypertension, it’s important to have your blood pressure measured regularly to catch it early and prevent it from becoming problematic. Your doctor will recommend how often you should have your blood pressure checked based on your age, gender, and other personal factors. Some doctors may recommend that you check your blood pressure at home regularly with a sphygmomanometer to augment your regular office visits.
Diet and Exercise
Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the most important lifestyle modifications you can make to lower your blood pressure. In fact, most people can lower their blood pressure substantially with these two interventions alone. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people reduce their intake of sodium, sweets, and saturated fats while increasing the amount of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and fish in their diet. If you are overweight or obese, you should consider losing weight by reducing your calorie intake and exercising regularly to help reduce your blood pressure. Most people who lose weight and exercise on a regular basis see a reduction in their blood pressure within a few months of starting their new lifestyle changes.
Medications for Alleviating High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure that does not respond to lifestyle modification, or if you have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, your doctor will likely recommend pharmacotherapy for your condition. There are several different types of medications that can help lower blood pressure, including angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium channel blockers (CCBs), diuretics, and other medications. Depending on your individual circumstances, your doctor may recommend a single therapy or a combination of treatments.
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)
ARBs work to reduce the amount of angiotensin II in your body, which in turn helps to reduce the amount of constricting force your blood vessels exert. As a result, ARBs can significantly lower your blood pressure, as well as reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular complications. ARBs are recommended as first-line therapy for patients who cannot control their hypertension with diuretics alone. ARBs and diuretics can be taken together, offering you the best chance of achieving normal blood pressure without increasing your risk of adverse side effects. Because ARBs do not affect your blood pressure as quickly as diuretics, most doctors will recommend that you use them in combination with another blood pressure-reducing medication.
Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)
Like ARBs, CCBs work to reduce the amount of angiotensin II in your body and, as a result, can help to lower your blood pressure. CCBs may be recommended as a first-line therapy for people with hypertension who cannot achieve blood pressure control with diuretics alone. As with ARBs, you can take CCBs with diuretics to offer yourself the best chance of reducing your blood pressure without increasing your risk of adverse side effects. Because CCBs work to reduce blood pressure more quickly than ARBs, they are often prescribed as a single first-line therapy, especially for patients who need their blood pressure reduced quickly to reduce the risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes.
Diuretics help to reduce the amount of water your kidneys remove from your bloodstream each day. They also work to reduce the amount of sodium and potassium your kidneys remove from your blood. As a result, diuretics can help to reduce your blood pressure. Diuretics are the first-line treatment for hypertension. They can be used alone or in conjunction with other blood pressure-reducing medications, such as ARBs or CCBs. Because diuretics remove excess water and sodium from your blood, they can also cause your body to lose potassium. You can counteract this side effect by eating a diet rich in potassium-rich foods.
Other Medications for High Blood Pressure
Beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors), and alpha-adrenergic antagonists (alpha-blockers) are other types of medications that can help alleviate high blood pressure in some cases. Beta-blockers are commonly prescribed to patients who have high blood pressure combined with an underlying heart condition, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, or arrhythmia. Alpha-blockers (sometimes used in combination with beta-blockers) can help to reduce the amount of force your blood vessels exert, which in turn helps to reduce your blood pressure. ACE inhibitors can help to slow the progression of pre-existing vascular damage and can be prescribed to patients with high blood pressure and coronary artery disease or diabetic kidney disease.