Medication and treatment

Who's afraid of blood pressure medication?

Lifestyle changes are the primary method to treat elevated blood pressure. Always. However, for a number of reasons you may not be able to lower your blood pressure readings sufficiently through changes in your lifestyle only. This is where medications come in. Let's be clear from the outset: taking medication does not mean that you can continue your reckless ways. Whether you like it or not, you must continue to lead a healthier life. If you are persistent, you may be able to gradually reduce your medication.

It is important for you to realise that we're not talking about a brief course of medication. Blood pressure medication is often continued for the rest of your days. If you find taking medications embarrassing or inconvenient, keep in mind that every pill you take helps you keep your blood pressure in check and prevents disastrous consequences. Even though you cannot feel the elevation in your blood pressure, it causes a lot of invisible damage. Unfortunately, the first sign of high blood pressure may be a cerebrovascular accident or a sudden death. You should heed your physician's advice and start taking blood pressure medication in time.

There is a wide variety of blood pressure medications with different modes of action, but the most important thing is to actually take the medication(s) prescribed for you. Luckily, they are not expensive: a package that lasts three months costs as much as a couple of bags of potato chips. So the financial investment is minimal compared to the benefits you gain.

A three-way action

The mode of action of blood pressure medication is based on three functions. One is to remove fluids and salt from your body, one to reduce the activity of the involuntary (or sympathetic) nervous system and one to dilate the blood vessels. This reduces the burden on your heart, slows down your heart rate and reduces the volume of blood circulating in your blood vessels. Combined, these changes help lower blood pressure and protect your brain.

How do you know the medication is working? By monitoring your blood pressure regularly. Do the monitoring at home and have a health care professional do it for you. That's the only way for you to ensure that the medication is working. However, sometimes the effect may wane over time and the therapy needs to be adjusted. If you suspect this is what is going on with you, schedule an appointment with your physician and take your monitoring results from the preceding two weeks with you.

With blood pressure medication, you may at times notice that exercising gets harder than it used to be. The reason is that to protect your blood vessels, the medication prevents excessive burdening and an increase in your heart rate. If this slowdown interferes with your daily activities, your physician can prescribe you medication that is better suited for someone who likes to work out hard.

The strange thing about elevated blood pressure and the medications prescribed for it is that you cannot really feel it either in your body or in your overall condition. That is why you must regularly keep track of your blood pressure with a blood pressure monitor. If your readings are ideal with the medication, keep up the good work. Never discontinue the medication on your own.