What is the treatment for high blood pressure?

It is important to treat hypertension: if your blood pressure numbers remain above normal for a long period, it can lead to complications. The first thing you need to know is that there are steps you can take to improve your health. Read the information we have provided here and don’t hesitate to talk to your health professional. Your commitment to your treatment – whether by changing your lifestyle habits or taking your medication as prescribed – will reduce your risk of complications from high blood pressure.


What can you do to influence the course of the disease?

There are several things you can do to control your blood pressure, and you know better than anyone what will work best for you. Your active participation in your treatment is key.

You can prevent complications by:

  1. adopting healthy lifestyle habits
  2. taking your medication as prescribed


What lifestyle habits should be changed or adopted?

Changing your lifestyle can do a lot to decrease your blood pressure, just like medication. Make healthy habits a priority, even if you are taking medication to control your blood pressure. Talk to your health professional. Ask to be referred to a nutritionist (specialist in food and nutrition) or kinesiologist (specialist in physical activity) or find out if there are any programs in your region that could help you. Having someone to support you in making changes to your lifestyle will help you to reach your goals.

Habits Recommandations
Physical activity 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day of the week
Food Make healthy eating choices
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Lean meats, fish and poultry
Protein foods that come from plants (soy, for example)
Low-fat dairy products
Whole-grain cereal products

Reduce your salt intake
Avoid processed and canned foods, prepared meals and fast food.

Limit your alcohol consumption

Women: fewer than nine servings/week
Men: fewer than 14 servings/week
Stop smoking Since smoking contributes to hardening of the arteries and of the heart, quitting will improve the health of both.
Healthy stress management There are several behaviours that can help you manage your stress: better sleep habits, relaxation techniques, a strong social network, better work-life balance, conflict resolution, setting aside time for yourself and asking for help.

What pharmacological treatments are available?

In many cases, a change in lifestyle habits is all that is needed to achieve blood pressure goals. In other cases, antihypertensive medication must be taken to reduce blood pressure levels. Many different medications for controlling blood pressure are available. Determining which one is best for you depends on many factors, which is why your health professional will ask you many questions and prescribe various tests.

Choice of medication(s) depends on:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • If you are pregnant (or trying) or breastfeeding
  • Your overall health (for example, if you have diabetes or kidney failure or if you have had a heart attack or stroke in the past)
  • Any other medication(s) you are currently taking, as applicable

Your blood pressure treatment will begin with a low dose of the chosen medication. You will be asked to take your blood pressure at home during the next month (twice in the morning and twice in the evening for seven days) to determine if the medication is effective. Your health professional may also ask you to come into the clinic to have your blood pressure taken. In most cases, any given medication will reduce blood pressure by 5 to 10 mm Hg. You must therefore be patient if you do not reach your goal in the early stages of your treatment.

If the medication is well tolerated, the dose will be gradually increased over the next few months. The original medication may also be combined with another one, as different medications are often complementary. If you experience side effects, another type of medication may be proposed. Note, however, that side effects experienced at the beginning of hypertensive treatment often diminish after about a month.

Be sure to talk to your health professional about your blood pressure goals. It’s like going on a trip: if you know where you’re headed, it is easier to understand why you might have to take a break at one point or change direction. Don’t look at changes in medication or dose as failures: they are necessary steps for arriving successfully – and safely – at your destination.

There are several classes of medication that are prescribed to reduce blood pressure. The table below lists the most common medications and the main possible side effects. A side effect is an undesirable response to a normal dose of a given medication. It is important to know that many side effects may disappear within a month or two after beginning your treatment. The side effects listed here are not experienced by everyone who takes the medication. We have indicated the most common side effects as well as those that occur more rarely. It is possible that side effects other than those mentioned here may occur. If these last longer than a month, talk to your health professional.

Research on the subject of high blood pressure has shown that taking several medications at the same time – called “combinations” – can have interesting results. You may be prescribed one pill that contains two medications.

Class of medication Most common side effects EExamples of medications
Thiazides and thiazide-like diuretics Most common: None

Rares : Muscle cramps, weakness, dry mouth, dizziness, headaches, light-headedness, nausea
The names of these medications often end with  “ ide

Beta blockers Most common: Dizziness, nausea, weakness, fatigue, headaches

Rares : Difficulty breathing, cold hands and feet, reduced sexual function, depression, nightmares, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
The names of these medications often end with  “ ol

Angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) Most common: Dry cough that can irritate the throat

Rares : Dizziness
The names of these medications often end with  “ ide

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) Most common: None

Rares : Headaches, dizziness
The names of these medications often end with  “ an

Calcium channel blockers Most common: Swelling in feet and ankles

Rares : Dizziness, headaches, facial flushing (red face), nausea
The names of these medications often end with  “ ine