Blood Pressure Medication 101
There are many different high blood pressure medications available, each with their pros and cons. Read on to learn which may be right for you.
A medicine to lower blood pressure is often recommended if your blood pressure is consistently high, usually at or above 140/90, but sometimes will be recommended at a lower blood pressure, especially if you have coronary heart disease, have had a stroke, have peripheral artery disease), diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.
Your doctor might prescribe more than one type of medication to treat your condition. You may need to try different medicines until you and your doctor find the best one or combination of medicines that work for you.
Some of the most common medications used to lower blood pressure include:
- Beta-blockers: This type of medication makes your heart beat slower and with less force. It also blocks certain hormones in your body that can raise your blood pressure.
- Diuretics: Also commonly referred to as water pills, this medication helps reduce the sodium levels and excess fluid in your body, which helps reduce your blood pressure.
- ACE inhibitors: This medication helps your blood vessels relax to help reduce your blood pressure.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): This is another medication that also helps relax vessels to lower blood pressure.
- Calcium channel blockers: These medications block some of the calcium from entering the cardiac muscles of your heart, meaning less forceful heartbeats. This medicine also causes blood vessels to relax to further lower blood pressure.
- Alpha-2 agonists: This type of medication changes the nerve impulses that cause blood vessels to tighten. This medication also helps blood vessels to relax, which reduces blood pressure.
Taking your medications as prescribed, monitoring your blood pressure and most importantly, making healthy lifestyle changes, can help you reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure.
How to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you lower your blood pressure naturally. Here are some of the most recommended lifestyle changes that can help:
A Heart-Healthy Diet
A healthy diet can help to reduce high blood pressure. Try to incorporate the following foods every day:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains (like whole grain bread, oats, rice)
- Lean proteins like fish or chicken (instead of red meat, which is high in saturated fat)
It is also beneficial to reduce salt and salty foods (limit your sodium to 1,500-2,300 milligrams per day). It’s always best to limit or avoid restaurant food and prepackaged foods as they usually contain high sodium. It is also recommended to cut back on sweets. Instead, you can try to eat fresh fruit or dark chocolate for sweet cravings.
Increasing Physical Activity
A healthy weight and being physically active also helps reduce blood pressure naturally. Being physically active strengthens your heart (cardiovascular system) and also helps reduce stress.
- Try to get about 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 times per week
- You can walk or consider taking an online exercise class from your home
As mentioned, exercise helps to manage stress. Other activities can also help, such as:
- Prayer or meditation
- Deep breathing
- Yoga (stretching)
- Getting enough sleep
Adopting a Cleaner Lifestyle
- Smoking: If you smoke, try to quit. These chemicals damage the body’s tissues and harden blood vessel walls.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can raise blood pressure. It is best to avoid alcohol or drink alcohol in moderation.
There are two numbers create a blood pressure reading:
- Systolic Pressure: This is the first number (the one on top when you’re looking at a reading) – it indicates the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and pumps out blood.
- Diastolic pressure: This is the second number (the one on the bottom) – it is the reading of the pressure in your arteries between heart beats.
Understanding your blood pressure readings:
- Healthy: A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80.
- Elevated: The systolic number is between 120 and 129, and the diastolic number is less than 80. (Note: Medication is not usually necessary; however, lifestyle and diet changes are recommended to help reduce your blood pressure.)
- Stage 1 hypertension: The systolic number is between 130 and 139, or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89.
- Stage 2 hypertension: The systolic number is 140 or higher, or the diastolic number is 90 or higher.
- Hypertensive crisis: The systolic number is over 180, or the diastolic number is over 120. Blood pressure in this range usually requires urgent medical attention.
Please Remember: If you experience symptoms such as chest pains, headaches, shortness of breath, or visual changes and your blood pressure is over 180, please go to your nearest hospital emergency room immediately!