Step 8: Treatment Overview   Next Page

The goal of treatment is to lower your high blood pressure. This will help prevent stroke and damage to organs and blood vessels throughout the body.

First, your doctor will recommend that you make changes to your lifestyle. The severity of your high blood pressure will determine whether or not you need to take medication in addition to making lifestyle changes.

Based on the results of your medical examination, lab tests, and the severity of your high blood pressure, your doctor can determine the best treatment plan for you.

Lifestyle change is the first step

Lifestyle changes may be enough to lower your blood pressure if carried out with commitment and determination. This includes eating healthier foods, exercising, and controlling your weight.

If lifestyle changes alone do not bring your blood pressure down low enough, your doctor will then add medication. If you have any of the following risk factors, your doctor will likely start you on medication sooner:

  • Smoking
  • High total cholesterol
  • High LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Low HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Men over 35
  • Women after menopause
  • Family history of early cardiovascular disease (father, grandfather, or brother under age 55; mother, grandmother, or sister under age 65)

Finally, if you have any of the following medical conditions, your doctor will probably start you on medication right away:

  • Heart disease (Chest pain due to heart disease, prior heart attack, prior surgery on coronary arteries, heart failure, enlargement of left ventricle)
  • Stroke
  • Kidney damage
  • Disorders of the retina (eye)
  • Other artery disease
  • Diabetes

Again, lifestyle changes continue to be necessary even if you are taking blood pressure medication.


If you are like most people with high blood pressure, you will need medication to bring your blood pressure under control. In fact, two or more drugs are often needed. It is important to remember, however, that medications do not work well if you don't make the necessary lifestyle changes to your diet, weight, and exercise routine.

Patients with diabetes

If you have diabetes, the goal for your blood pressure is for it to be below 130/80. Like anyone with high blood pressure, you will be followed closely and treated with lifestyle changes initially. However, drug treatment is generally started earlier than for someone without diabetes if diet and exercise alone don't bring your blood pressure down.


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Review Date: June 3, 2003

Reviewed By: Jacqueline A. Hart, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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