Usually, the goal is to keep your blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg (130/80 mmHg if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease). Ask your doctor what your blood pressure goal should be.
Some people can prevent or control high blood pressure by changing to healthier habits, such as:
- Following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan, which includes cutting down on salt and sodium and eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
- Losing excess weight and staying at a healthy weight
- Being physically active (for example, walking 30 minutes every day)
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol intake
Sometimes blood pressure stays too high even when a person makes these kinds of healthy changes. In that case, it is necessary to add medicine to help lower blood pressure. Medicines will control your blood pressure, but they cannot cure it. You will need to take blood pressure medicine for a long time.
Blood pressure medicines work in different ways to lower blood pressure. Often, two or more medicines work better than one. Some medicines lower blood pressure by removing extra fluid and salt from your body. Others affect blood pressure by slowing down the heartbeat or by relaxing and widening blood vessels.
Below are the types of medicine used to treat high blood pressure:
- Diuretics (di-u-RET-iks) are sometimes called water pills. They work by helping your kidneys flush excess water and salt from your body. This reduces the amount of fluid in your blood, and your blood pressure goes down. There are different types of diuretics. They are often used along with other high blood pressure medicines and may be combined with another medicine in one pill.
- Beta blockers help your heart beat slower and with less force. Your heart pumps less blood through the blood vessels, and your blood pressure goes down.
- Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors keep your body from making a hormone called angiotensin II, which normally causes blood vessels to narrow. ACE inhibitors prevent this narrowing, so your blood pressure goes down.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are newer blood pressure medicines that protect your blood vessels from angiotensin II. As a result, the blood vessels relax and become wider, and your blood pressure goes down.
- Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels. This causes blood vessels to relax, and your blood pressure goes down.
- Alpha blockers reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels, allowing blood to pass more easily and causing blood pressure to go down.
- Alpha-beta blockers reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels the same way alpha blockers do, but they also slow the heartbeat, as beta blockers do. As a result, blood pressure goes down.
- Nervous system inhibitors relax blood vessels by controlling nerve impulses from the brain. This causes blood vessels to become wider and blood pressure to go down.
- Vasodilators (VA-so-di-LA-ters) open blood vessels by directly relaxing the muscle in the vessel walls, causing blood pressure to go down.
Read More: Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
It is important that you take your blood pressure medicine at the same time each day and not skip days or cut pills in half to save money. The NHLBI Web site Your Guide to Lowering Your High Blood Pressure offers tips to help you remember to take your blood pressure medicines.
How Can High Blood Pressure Be Prevented?
You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure. These steps include:
- Keeping a healthy weight
- Being physically active
- Following a healthy eating plan, such as DASH, that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods
- Choosing and preparing foods with less salt and sodium
- Quitting smoking
- Drinking alcohol in moderation if you drink