Ask the Pharmacist: Jan/Feb 2020

Q: My blood pressure medication was recently changed due to a recall. I am concerned the new medication may not be as effective as the one I was taking for years. How can I tell if it is working?

A: You have reason to be concerned. High blood pressure is often called “the silent killer.” This is because you can have high blood pressure and still feel just fine. It often doesn’t cause visible signs of illness but can lead to stroke, heart disease, eye problems, kidney failure, and other health problems. Some people experience symptoms such as headaches or shortness of breath if their blood pressure runs too high. Some people may experience dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting if their blood pressure is too low. But most people do not have any symptoms at all.

The best way to tell if your medication is working is to check your blood pressure. This is often done at the doctor’s office but most patients only see their doctor a few times a year. There are many home blood-pressure monitors for sale. Ask your healthcare provider which monitor you need and how to use it. To get an accurate reading, avoid smoking, exercise, and caffeine 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure. Make sure you are sitting with your feet uncrossed and on the floor and that your back is resting against something. Try to relax quietly for five minutes before checking your blood pressure. Many pharmacies offer free blood-pressure checks when you come in. Ask about it on your next visit. The American Heart Association recently updated its guidelines. High blood pressure is now considered anything over 130/80. This is very common even for people who have heart-healthy habits. The good news is that blood pressure can be controlled in most people with medication and lifestyle changes. These include maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise, not smoking, decreasing salt intake, lowering stress, and improving sleep habits.

So check your blood pressure and check it often!