High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the main causes of heart attack, kidney failure and stroke. It can occur at any age, and may worsen as people get older. Hypertension is called the "silent killer" because patients may not know they have it.
"If your blood pressure is only mildly high, making lifestyle changes can bring blood pressure down to normal levels," says internal medicine physician Toni Brayer, M.D., of Sutter Pacific Medical Foundation. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and avoiding excessive alcohol are all important in blood pressure control.
Many patients may need to use medication to help control high blood pressure. Thanks in part to medications that safely lower blood pressure, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of people dying from heart attack and stroke over the last 40 years.
"If lifestyle changes alone don't work, people shouldn't be afraid to take medication to get their blood pressure to a normal range," Dr. Brayer says.
Here's what you need to know if you've been prescribed blood pressure medication.