Stopping Blood Pressure Medication

Your doctor can help you make an informed decision about treatment.

Woman checking blood pressure in living room.

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Exercising, losing weight, eating healthy, and quitting smoking can help you control high blood pressure (hypertension) and improve your overall health. Some people find that after making these lifestyle changes, they no longer need medication to control their blood pressure.

However, before you stop taking blood pressure medication, you'll need to work with your doctor to assess the risks and benefits.

Hypertension Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next doctor's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

hypertension-discussion-guide

Stopping High Blood Pressure Medication

To make an informed choice about your need for ongoing treatment, you and your doctor will first need to review the cause (or causes) of your high blood pressure.

The factors that contribute to high blood pressure generally fall into two categories: modifiable and unmodifiable.

Modifiable factors are those you can make changes to, such as your diet and activity level. Others, like genetics and age, are not factors you can control.

In 90-95% of cases, the exact cause of hypertension is never found. This type of high blood pressure is called "essential hypertension" or "primary hypertension."

If your doctor determines that your high blood pressure is primarily related to modifiable factors and your blood pressure readings normalize after you make changes, it may be time to discuss whether you need to continue taking medication.

Research has yet to establish exactly how long patients need to have normal blood pressure after making lifestyle changes before stopping meds, but several studies have suggested waiting anywhere from six months to two years.

Ultimately, the decision is subjective, and each person's needs must be assessed individually. However, if you've lost weight, sustained a healthy diet and exercise program, and quit smoking, your doctor may decide to have you try a trial period without medication.

If you stop taking your medication and your blood pressure goes up again, you can always resume treatment, along with continuing the lifestyle changes you've made.

When You Should Not Stop Blood Pressure Medication

If your high blood pressure is due to non-modifiable factors like family history or variable ones (such as chronic disease), you may not be able to stop taking your medication.

This is especially true for older adults, as age is an independent risk factor for hypertension and tends to be associated with greater complexities in managing chronic illness.

What is normal blood pressure?

In 2017, the American College of Cardiology released its revised hypertension guidelines, which lowered the normal blood pressure threshold to 130/80 mm Hg (previously, the cut off was 140/90 mm Hg).

Making Informed Decisions

Making healthier lifestyle choices is about more than avoiding medications; it's also about improving the quality and length of your life.

Even if you've made lifestyle changes, your doctor may not want you to stop treating your high blood pressure with medication. Listen to their reasons and try not to get discouraged.

You are not being punished and your doctor's recommendation doesn't necessarily mean you're in poor health. In your case, your doctor has decided that the benefits of continuing treatment outweigh the potential consequences of stopping.

While you might prefer to avoid pharmaceutical treatment, know that there is nothing inherently "bad" about taking medication to treat high blood pressure.

Antihypertensive medications are not addictive, and the side effects are generally manageable. However, there are different kinds of blood pressure medications.

Research has shown that the type that works best for one person with high blood pressure may not be the best choice for someone else. Your doctor can help you decide which antihypertensive medication will be the safest and most effective.

A Word From Verywell

Even if changes in your lifestyle seem to have improved your blood pressure, never stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor.

If you don't agree with your doctor's advice to continue taking your blood pressure medication, you can get a second opinion. You have the right to make decisions about your health—just make sure your choices are informed.

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Article Sources

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