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High Blood Pressure - Treatment Overview

Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks or strokes. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk. Lowering blood pressure lowers the risk of damaging blood vessels and getting atherosclerosis.

High blood pressure usually can't be cured. But it can be controlled. The two types of treatment for high blood pressure are:

  • Lifestyle changes.
  • Daily medicines.

For most people, the goal of treatment is to get the blood pressure below 140/90. But a person's goal may be lower. Your doctor will give you a blood pressure goal that is based on your health. For example, your goal may be lower if you have other conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, coronary artery disease, or chronic kidney disease.

Treating high blood pressure usually is a lifelong effort.

Treatment for high blood pressure

Blood pressure

Treatment

Blood pressure of 120–139 over 80–89 (prehypertension)

Lifestyle changes

High blood pressure of 140–159 over 90–99

Lifestyle changes, possibly medicines

High blood pressure of 160 over 100 or higher

Medicines plus lifestyle changes

High blood pressure plus organ damage or other risk factors for heart disease

Medicines plus serious lifestyle changes and treatment for the other health problems

Secondary high blood pressure

Medicines, treatment of the condition causing your high blood pressure, or both

Treating high blood pressure with lifestyle changes

Your doctor may suggest that you make one or more of the following changes:

  • Lose weight. If you're overweight, losing extra pounds may bring your blood pressure down.
  • Get more active. Regular aerobic exercise can help lower blood pressure.
  • Stop smoking. Nicotine temporarily increases blood pressure and heart rate with each use.
  • Cut back on drinking. Limit alcohol to 2 drinks camera.gif a day for men, 1 drink a day for women.
  • Eat less sodium. To help lower blood pressure, try to eat less than 1,500 mg a day.3
  • Follow the DASH diet. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan can help you lower your blood pressure.

For tips on how to do these things, see the Living With High Blood Pressure section of this topic.

HBP_Izzy.jpg

One Woman's Story:

Izzy, 60

"I could never have imagined I could get (my blood pressure) down so low by losing weight. I feel sure it was the WAY I lost weight, with DASH."—Izzy

Read more about Izzy and how she uses the DASH eating plan.

Treating high blood pressure with medicines

If lifestyle changes don't lower your blood pressure to your goal, you may need to take daily medicines as well.

Medicines control—but usually don't cure—high blood pressure. So you will probably need to take them for the rest of your life. Most people need to take two or more medicines.

High Blood Pressure: Should I Take Medicine?

Some people find it hard to take their medicines properly. They may feel it's too much trouble—especially when they don't feel sick. Or they're worried about side effects. Some people find it hard to keep track of when and how to take their medicines.

If you have trouble taking high blood pressure medicines for any reason, talk to your doctor.

actionset.gif High Blood Pressure: Taking Medicines Properly

HBP_Tyrell.jpg

One Man's Story:

Tyrell, 35

"I learned that it doesn't matter how healthy you feel—if you have high blood pressure, you're sick and you'd better do something about it."—Tyrell

Read more about Tyrell and why he started taking his medicines properly.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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