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Treatment for high blood pressure

Making changes to your lifestyle can often treat high blood pressure (also called hypertension), but medication can also help. Find out what you might need.

Your GP or nurse will advise you on what is best for you, based on your blood pressure reading. Advice can range from changing your diet through to medication if there is a risk of heart attacks or strokes.

When you may need treatment

If you have diabetes, the general rule is that your doctor will advise you to take treatment if your blood pressure is consistently above 140/80mmHg (or 135/75mmHg at home).

If you are overweight or inactive, you may be able to avoid going on treatment by making some significant lifestyle changes.

Healthy lifestyle treats high blood pressure

Everyone with high blood pressure should make healthy changes to their life, which can reduce blood pressure in just a few weeks, like:

  • cutting your salt intake to less than 6g (0.2oz) a day
  • eating a balanced diet that includes fresh fruit and vegetables
  • losing weight
  • cutting down on alcohol
  • drinking less caffeine (found in coffee, tea and cola)
  • stopping smoking
  • getting at least six  hours of sleep a night

You may be able to avoid medication if you make these lifestyle changes early.

Medication for high blood pressure

Several medications help control high blood pressure, with many people taking a combination of different ones.

The medication you need depends on your age and ethnicity, but as a guide:

If you’re aged under-55, which medication you take depends on your age. Your healthcare team can discuss this with you. This medication will reduce blood pressure by relaxing your blood vessels.

If you’re 55 or older, or of African or Caribbean origin and any age, you'll usually be offered a calcium channel blocker. These reduce blood pressure by widening your blood vessels.

You may need to always take blood pressure medication – but if your blood pressure stays under control for several years, you may be able to cut back or stop treatment.

Most people don't have any side effects from these medications, but your GP will advise you on this.

When diuretics or beta-blockers are used

Also called water pills, diuretics work by flushing out excess water and salt when you need to pass urine. 

Beta-blockers, which make your heart beat more slowly to reduce blood pressure, are not widely used because other medications give better results.

So are you ready to be healthier and improve your blood pressure?