Treat Your High Blood Pressure, Boost Your Heart

Managing hypertension often combines lifestyle tweaks with medications. Sticking to your treatment might even save your life.

doctor measuring blood pressure

Medically reviewed in October 2022

Updated on October 7, 2022

When confronting a health issue, sometimes medications or other treatment strategies work wonders—and sometimes the results are less dramatic. One thing, though, is certain: Treatments will never work as intended if you don’t stick to the program.

If you’re following your treatment strategy for high blood pressure (hypertension) to a T, keep up the good work. But if you’re having trouble following your plan as prescribed—whether that includes lifestyle tweaks, prescription medications, or a combination of the two—you’re not alone. Data shows that nearly half of Americans treated for hypertension do not follow the plans laid out for them by their healthcare providers (HCPs).

There are many factors that can contribute to someone not taking a prescribed medication or not making a lifestyle change their HCP recommends. These include financial costs, unstable living situations, complex treatment instructions, and wariness about side effects. Some patients have multiple health conditions, which can be overwhelming and can complicate treatment even more.

In short, sticking to your treatment plan can be challenging and having trouble doing so doesn’t mean you’re lazy.

If you know you have room for improvement in following your treatment plan and taking your prescriptions consistently, the time to get with the program is now. Your health—and your life—may depend on it.

The challenges of managing high blood pressure
Managing high blood pressure can be tricky because there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your specific treatment plan depends on how severe the problem is, your health history, your current health, and your lifestyle.

Your program might include lifestyle changes, like getting more exercise, losing weight, and quitting smoking. Your plan will also probably emphasize eating healthfully, cutting back on alcohol, and reducing the amount of sodium in your diet. It might also include taking prescription medications.

Finding the right combination of those tools often takes time. What’s more, starting a new treatment plan may involve trial and error, since people may respond differently to different medications. Rest assured, your HCP will work to determine the best strategy to manage your condition with the fewest side effects.

What’s most important is that you discuss with your HCP any treatment recommendations and medications you’re prescribed so that you understand how to follow them as well as you can. Start by considering these questions:

  • Exactly how, when, and how often do I take these medications? For example, is there a time of day that’s best? Should a particular drug be taken with or without food?
  • What side effects can I expect? Are the side effects I’m now experiencing normal?
  • Do I have any concerns about recommended treatment approaches? For example, if your HCP recommends changing your diet, perhaps you could benefit from counseling from a registered dietitian.
  • Do I have concerns about the cost of treatment or am I worried I might have trouble affording my medications? Your HCP may be able to change brand-name drugs to generic versions or recommend an assistance program to help you cover treatment costs.

The life-saving benefits of following your treatment plan
High blood pressure usually doesn’t come with noticeable symptoms, which means that even if your treatment is improving your condition, you likely won’t feel any difference. But consistently following your treatment plan is the best way to keep your blood pressure under control over time. Each aspect of treatment—whether it’s making healthy food choices, exercising, managing stress, or taking a drug like an ACE inhibitor—works with the others to accomplish that goal.

Not taking medications for high blood pressure or not following your HCP’s recommendations to lose weight or change your diet can put you at risk for any of the following complications—some of which may be fatal:

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD), which can cause leg pain and fatigue when walking
  • Kidney disease or kidney failure
  • Vision loss
  • Sexual dysfunction

Continue treatment, even if your blood pressure improves
Managing high blood pressure usually requires an ongoing commitment once you’ve been diagnosed with the condition. And it’s important to remember that just because your blood pressure numbers move back into a safe range doesn’t mean you can halt treatment. You should always continue to take medications that have been prescribed unless your HCP tells you otherwise, and you should continue to follow the lifestyle changes as laid out in your plan.

Getting your numbers back to a safe range means the treatment plan is working, but you need to continue following it to maintain those positive results.

Treating a chronic condition can be time-consuming and frustrating, and remembering to take your medications often feels like a tall order. If you’re having trouble sticking to your prescription, the American Heart Association suggests the following:

  • Take medications at the same time every day and/or take medications at the same time you do another daily activity, like brushing your teeth or eating breakfast.
  • Find a pill container that keeps medications organized, like those that have dividers for different days or times of day.
  • Make an instruction sheet for yourself or a “medicine calendar” that outlines when you need to take which drugs.
  • When traveling, be sure to bring the medications you should be taking over the entire course of your trip.
  • Consult with your pharmacist before crushing or splitting pills or tablets. Some medications are only intended to be taken whole.
  • If your medication regimen is too complicated for you to follow, let your HCP and/or pharmacist know. There may be a way to change a medication dose to simplify your routine. They may also have tips to help you follow your plan more closely.
Article sources open article sources

Signorelli SS. How to Treat Patients with Essential Hypertension and Peripheral Arterial Disease. Curr Pharm Des. 2017;23(31):4598-4602.
American Heart Association. Health Threats From High Blood Pressure. Last reviewed Mar 4, 2022.
American Heart Association. Managing Your Medicines. Published March 31, 2018.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes. Page last reviewed May 18, 2021.

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