Which medications should you take?
A wide variety of medications are available for people with high blood pressure, all of which offer a variety of different advantages and disadvantages. Knowing what to take – and more importantly, what not to take – will help you improve your health.
You should never self-medicate for a condition such as high blood pressure. After a blood pressure reading establishes that you have high blood pressure, your doctor will be able to recommend medication based on your blood pressure level.
If you have blood pressure is significantly higher than the normal level, your doctor may prescribe more than one medication. In this guide, we’ll look at several of the most common blood pressure medications and explain their health effects.
Common treatment options for people with prehypertension
People with blood pressure that’s above the normal level but not high enough to be considered Stage 1 or Stage 2 high blood pressure have a condition that’s known as prehypertension.
Although prehypertension isn’t as serious as hypertension, it’s still a very serious health condition that needs to be treated quickly. Without action, prehypertension can lead to Stage 1 (and later, Stage 2) high blood pressure.
Doctors will not always prescribe medications to reduce your blood pressure if you suffer from prehypertension. They will usually recommend changes to your diet and lifestyle that control your blood pressure and improve your health, such as:
- Improving your diet by eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, complex carbohydrates and fewer saturated fats and salty foods
- Reducing your weight to a healthy level, particularly by losing excess fat in your midsection, which is located close to vital organs
- Performing a moderate amount of exercise every day – for example, a short walk or jogging session every morning or afternoon
- Reducing your consumption of tobacco products such as cigarettes or cigars and drinking less alcohol
Typically, prehypertension is treated with lifestyle changes alone. However, if your prehypertension is severe, your doctor may also prescribe some of the medications listed in the sections below.
Commonly prescribed medications for Stage 1 high blood pressure
Stage 1 high blood pressure indicates a highly elevated level of systolic or diastolic blood pressure. People with Stage 1 high blood pressure have systolic levels of 140-159 mmHg or diastolic levels of 90-99 mmHg.
Your doctor may prescribe a range of medications to lower your blood pressure to within a healthy range and reduce the health effects of Stage 1 high blood pressure, including:
- ACE inhibitors. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors widen your blood vessels by inhibiting production of a peptide hormone called angiotensin.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers are similar to ACE inhibitors, but block the peptide hormone angiotensin from causing vasoconstriction.
- Beta blockers are drugs that target the beta receptors and block hormonal signals targeted at the heart and blood vessels.
- Calcium channel blockers are drugs that prevent calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessels, resulting in lower blood pressure.
- Diuretics are drugs that cause your body to expel excess water. As the body expels water, it flushes out excess sodium, which causes a reduction in blood pressure.
- Renin inhibitors are drugs that prevent renin – an enzyme that leads to high blood pressure – from being produced.
Commonly prescribed medications for Stage 2 high blood pressure
Stage 2 high blood pressure is more severe than Stage 1 high blood pressure, and as such requires a more thorough treatment. People with Stage 2 high blood pressure have systolic levels of 160+ mmHg or diastolic levels of 100+ mmHg.
Most of the medications prescribed to people with Stage 2 high blood pressure are the same as those prescribed for Stage 1 high blood pressure. However, people with Stage 2 high blood pressure may be prescribed a combination of different drugs.
Other options fro treating Stage 2 high blood pressure include vasodilators or alpha blockers. Although both of these medications are effective in treating elevated blood pressure levels, they can have serious side effects for many people.
Like prehypertension and Stage 1 high blood pressure, Stage 2 high blood pressure should be treated through diet and exercise. Speak to your doctor about the lifestyle changes you could make to lower your blood pressure and improve your health.