If you have high blood pressure, the lifestyle habits noted above may not lower your blood pressure enough.
If they don’t, you’ll need to take drugs.
Even if you need drugs, you still must make the lifestyle changes. Doing so will help your drugs work better and may reduce how much of them you need.
There are many drugs available to lower blood pressure. They work in various ways.
Many people need to take two or more drugs to bring their blood pressure down to a healthy level.
Here are the main types of drugs and how they work.
Diuretics: These are sometimes called “water pills” because they work in the kidney and flush excess water and sodium from the body through urine.
Beta-blockers: These reduce nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This makes the heart beat less often and with less force. Blood pressure drops, and the heart works less hard.
Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors: These prevent the formation of a hormone called angiotensin II, which normally causes blood vessels to narrow. The blood vessels relax, and pressure goes down.
Angiotensin antagonists: These shield blood vessels from angiotensin II. As a result, the blood vessels open wider, and pressure goes down.
Calcium channel blockers: These keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels. Blood vessels relax, and pressure goes down.
Alpha-blockers: These reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels, allowing blood to pass more easily.
Alpha-beta-blockers: These work the same way as alpha-blockers but also slow the heartbeat, as beta-blockers do.
Nervous system inhibitors: These relax blood vessels by controlling nerve impulses.
Vasodilators: These directly open blood vessels by relaxing the muscle in the vessel walls.
When you start on a drug, work with your doctor to get the right drug and dose level for you. If you have side effects, tell your doctor so the drugs can be adjusted.
If you’re worried about cost, tell your doctor or pharmacist—there may be a less expensive drug or a generic form that you can use instead.
It’s important that you take your drugs as prescribed. That can prevent a heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure, which is a serious condition in which the heart cannot pump as much blood as the body needs.