Taking High Blood Pressure Drugs Properly

If you're like most people with high blood pressure, drugs are a major part of your plan to lower your blood pressure. Your doctor's goal is to find the right combination of high blood pressure medicines that accomplishes these goals:

How can you work with your doctor to make sure your high blood pressure medicine is meeting these goals? Perhaps these 10 tips can help.

Make a List of All of Your High Blood Pressure Medications

Your doctor has many high blood pressure medications to choose from. They work in different ways to lower your blood pressure. Each type of drug has its own possible side effects, so it's a good idea to know exactly which high blood pressure medicines you take. Ask your doctor or pharmacist these questions:

  • What are the names of my high blood pressure drugs? Ask for both the brand name and the generic name.
  • How does this medication help lower my blood pressure?
  • What is the dose?
  • How often do I take the medication?

Make a list of your high blood pressure drugs, and make a few copies of the list. Take the list with you whenever you visit a health care professional. Give copies to any family members or friends who help with your health care.

Know the Possible Side Effects of Your High Blood Pressure Drugs

Each type of high blood pressure drug has possible side effects. Some side effects may be temporary; some may be more lasting. Some side effects are bothersome; some may be potentially dangerous. Ask your doctor or pharmacist these questions about each of your medications:

  • What side effects might occur? Which are common and which are rare?
  • What should I do if I notice side effects?
  • Are there medicines, food, or beverages that can interact with this drug?
  • What are serious side effects that I need to be aware of?

Take Your High Blood Pressure Drugs Exactly as Prescribed

High blood pressure drugs work best if you take them as your doctor has prescribed them. So you need to take the right amount at the right times every day. Ask your doctor or pharmacist these questions:

  • How much of the medication should I take?
  • How often should I take it?
  • Are there special instructions, such as to take the drug with food?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?

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Make a Habit out of Taking Your High Blood Pressure Drugs

It's easier to take your high blood pressure drugs exactly as prescribed when you make it a part of your daily routine. Try some of these ideas to help you remember to take your medication:

  • Link taking your medicine with another daily routine, such as brushing your teeth or fixing your morning coffee.
  • Every time you take your medication, mark it down on a calendar or in a notebook. This also gives you a record you can show your doctor so you can both determine how well the medicine is working.
  • Place reminders in key spots. Sticky notes are great -- they come in a variety of colors and shapes to get your attention. Put reminder notes in places you're likely to see them, such as on your bathroom mirror or by the kitchen sink.
  • Have a family member or friend call or email you to remind you to take your medicine.

Organize Your Medications

It can be frustrating to keep track of so many pills to take. Was that pink one supposed to be one or two? In the morning or twice a day? With or without food? You can reduce some of this confusion by organizing your medicine for a day or even for an entire week.

  • Keep all your medication in one location, such as on your nightstand or on the kitchen counter (out of the reach of children). This way you can find your medicine when you need it.
  • Find a pillbox that meets your needs. You'll see a variety of them at your local drugstore or pharmacy. Some have separate compartments for each day of the week. Some have three or four compartments for each day, so that you can organize your pills by time of day.
  • If you find yourself feeling confused or frustrated, ask a friend or family member to help.

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Remember to Refill Your Prescriptions

High blood pressure drugs need to be taken on schedule. So don't let your supply run out! This can be tricky, especially if you use multiple drugs and different pharmacies. See if any of these suggestions might help:

  • Find out exactly how soon you can reorder your prescription. Usually it's about a week before your current supply runs out. Insurance companies have different rules for how early you can request a refill before the current supply runs out.
  • Try to use only one pharmacy. It will be easier to talk to a pharmacist about possible drug interactions among prescription and nonprescription drugs and supplements and make sure you are not taking duplicate medicines.
  • Use a friend or family member to help you find your way through the insurance, mail order, or other groups you must deal with in order to get your refills.
  • Mark a calendar with the dates for reordering. Some online or mail-order suppliers will keep track of this for you, as well.
  • If you're planning to travel, have all of your medication ready to go with you. Keep it with you, rather than in your checked baggage when flying.

Follow the Other Parts of Your High Blood Pressure Treatment Plan

When it comes to treating high blood pressure, it's likely that you and your doctor have talked about steps in addition to taking medication. These steps can help make your medicine work even better to control blood pressure. Here are some of the other steps that might be part of your plan:

  • Eat a diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat meat and dairy foods.
  • Watch how much sodium you eat in your diet. Most of the sodium you eat comes from packaged or processed foods.
  • Watch how much alcohol you drink. Ask your doctor about an appropriate amount.
  • Don't use cigarettes or other tobacco products.
  • Get as close as you can to a healthy weight. Your doctor can help you determine an appropriate goal.
  • Get regular physical activity. Try for 150 minutes of moderate activity a week.
  • Learn ways to relieve stress, such as relaxation techniques.

For each of these steps, your doctor can give you more information and get you started. Or your doctor may refer you to other health professionals who can help. Some health centers even offer free or inexpensive classes in these areas.

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Get Your Blood Pressure Checked Regularly

One of the best ways to see if your high blood pressure drugs are working is to check your blood pressure. Your doctor may want you to come into the office for checks. Or you may be asked to check your blood pressure at home.

Keep Your Doctor Informed

Your doctor doesn't know everything about your life and your activities. But the more your doctor knows about you, the better he or she can help. Make sure your doctor knows about these things:

  • Other drugs you take, either prescription or over the counter
  • Vitamins or other supplements you take
  • Herbs you might use
  • Alcohol and any recreational drugs you use, or have used
  • Other health problems, especially conditions such as diabetes

Other factors in your life that could contribute to high blood pressure, such as difficult family issues, a high-stress job, or a sedentary lifestyle

The "Shoulds" of Properly Taking Your High Blood Pressure Drugs

Why is it so important to take your high blood pressure drugs properly? It's not just to make your doctor happy or to make your life more complicated. Taking high blood pressure medicine properly provides you the best results, lowering your blood pressure to a healthier level. You should take high blood pressure medicine properly because:

  • That's how your doctor can tell whether the medicine is working to lower your blood pressure.
  • Taking medicine at the wrong doses or times or stopping high blood pressure medicine suddenly can be downright dangerous to your health.
  • If your blood pressure remains too high, you're more likely to develop other serious problems such as heart attacks, stroke, or kidney disease.

The good news is that taking high blood pressure medicine properly helps ensure better health for yourself now and in the future.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on April 12, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Blood Pressure Medicines, High Blood Pressure: Things You Can Do to Help Lower Yours, and How to Get the Most from Your Medicine." 

American Heart Association: "Taking Medication for High Blood Pressure."

Institute for Safe Medication Practices: "General Advice on Safe Medication Use."

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: "High Blood Pressure, Tips to Help You Remember to Take Your High Blood Pressure Medicine" and "Senior Health: High Blood Pressure."

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