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Every third American has high blood pressure. This articles takes a look at hypertension medication, side effects, and when to ask your doctor for a different drug.

Nearly a third of American adults — 67 million people — have high blood pressure. The condition affects people of both genders, and of all ages and ethnic groups. Though hypertension is often preventable or curable with "home remedies" such as a better diet, decreased salt intake and weight loss, a sizable portion of hypertension patients will need medication to bring their blood pressure down to safe levels. 

What can you expect from hypertension medication? In this article, we'll take a closer look types of hypertension drugs, common side effects, and when to ask your doctor to switch your medication.

The Diagnosis

A high blood pressure diagnosis is not usually given after one blood pressure reading shows that your numbers are too high. Instead, your doctor will measure your blood pressure several times during multiple appointments. High blood pressure may be caught during a routine checkup or after you make an appointment because you aren't feeling well. You may also measure your blood pressure at home and see your physician if it's on the high side. 

So, when do you have high blood pressure? A blood pressure reading shows two numbers.

The first one is systolic high blood pressure, which looks at the blood pressure in your arteries while your heart is beating. The second number, the diastolic, measures your blood pressure in between two heart beats. 
  • If your blood pressure is 120/80 or lower, you have a normal blood pressure
  • A systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 and a diastolic pressure of between 80 and 89 indicates that you have prehypertension — you need to work on getting your blood pressure down and should see a doctor. 
  • A blood pressure of 140/90 or more means you have hypertension. See your doctor. 
  • People with a blood pressure of 160/100 or higher have stage 2 hypertension and need to take their condition very seriously. 

Those numbers look very definite, and are indeed often used as a guide. There is more to diagnosing hypertension than measuring blood pressure alone however, and it is good to keep in mind that blood pressure naturally rises with age. Before getting a diagnosis, your doctor might look at a number of different aspects of your overall health and ask you a list of questions. 

You can expect blood tests to find out about your kidney function, your calcium, potassium and cholesterol levels. You might be weighed and will definitely be asked about your diet and lifestyle. Stress can cause hypertension, but smoking is a huge offender. Your doctor will ask you if you smoke, and if so how much. Excessive alcohol consumption can also give you high blood pressure.

See Also: Hypertension drugs: Review & Comparison

Whenever possible, your doctor will suggest a plan to help you lower your blood pressure naturally. This might include helping you to give up smoking, a weight loss plan, tips about de-stressing, and the advice to reduce your salt intake. Regular exercise also benefits your blood pressure. 

If these natural remedies do not work or your blood pressure is exceptionally high, medication is the next step. 
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