Blood Pressure Medicines

A pharmacist discussing medication with a customer.

Do not stop taking your blood pressure medicine without talking to your doctor or health care team first.

Many people need to take medicine in addition to making lifestyle changes to help keep their blood pressure at healthy levels. Read more about blood pressure medicines.

How do blood pressure medicines work?

Blood pressure medicines can work several different ways. Blood pressure medicines can keep blood pressure at a healthy level by1:

  • Causing your body to get rid of water, which decreases the amount of water and salt in your body to a healthy level
  • Relaxing your blood vessels
  • Making your heart beat with less force
  • Blocking nerve activity that can restrict your blood vessels

Talk with your health care team about the best type of treatment for you. You may need to take more than one type of medicine to control your blood pressure. You can also talk to your health care team about how long it should take your blood pressure medicine to work.

It is important to take your blood pressure medicine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Do not stop taking your current medicine without talking to your doctor or pharmacist first. Stopping your blood pressure medicine without first talking to your health care team could lead to serious health consequences.

What are the benefits and risks of blood pressure medicines?

The benefits of blood pressure medicines are clear: Blood pressure medicines can help you keep your blood pressure at healthy levels and therefore greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

In general, the risks of taking blood pressure medicines are low. However, all medicines have risks. Talk with your doctor or health care professional about the risks of high blood pressure medicines.

Do not stop taking your current medicine without talking to your doctor or health care professional first.

What are the side effects of blood pressure medicines?

Most of the time, blood pressure medicines do not cause side effects. Some people have mild side effects, including dizziness, headaches, swelling in the legs or feet, or stomach problems.2

Some over-the-counter medicines, such as nasal decongestants, can also raise blood pressure and interact with blood pressure medicines.3 Tell your doctor about any medicines or supplements you are already taking.

All medicines have risks. Talk with your doctor about the best blood pressure medicines for you, their benefits, risks, and side effects, and any other health problems you may have.

How do I know if I need medicine for high blood pressure?

Your health care team will tell you if you need medicine for high blood pressure, based on your blood pressure readings over a period of time. If you use a home blood pressure monitor, record or write down your readings.

Share your readings with your health care team so that you can make the best decision to manage your blood pressure together.

What are other ways I can lower my blood pressure?

In addition to taking medicine to control your blood pressure, you can take other steps to help keep your blood pressure levels healthy.

  • Get regular physical activity. Staying physically active is one of the best things you can do for your health. Physical activity helps keep your heart and blood vessels strong. It also can help you keep a healthy weight.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking damages your blood vessels and greatly increases your risk of not only high blood pressure but also heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
  • Eat healthy foods. Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help you avoid high blood pressure and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep a healthy weight. Having overweight or obesity means your heart must work harder to pump blood and oxygen around the body. Staying at a healthy weight reduces the stress on your heart and reduces your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Learn More

CDC

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

American Heart Association (AHA)

References

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2014). Medications for High Blood Pressure. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/medications-high-blood-pressureexternal icon. Accessed September 27, 2019.
  2. F.D.A. (2019). High Blood Pressure–Medicines to Help You. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/free-publications-women/high-blood-pressure-medicines-help-youexternal icon. Accessed September 27, 2019.
  3. American Heart Association. (2017). Understanding Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications and High Blood Pressure. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/understanding-overthecounter-otc-medications-and-high-blood-pressureexternal icon. Accessed September 27, 2019.