Blood pressure medicines are some of the most commonly used drugs. However, about one-quarter of people who take meds to lower their blood pressure stop taking them within six months. Up to one-half stop taking them within one year.

Why are blood pressure medicines so important?

Keeping your blood pressure normal can help you stay healthy. People with high blood pressure are more likely to be sent to the hospital, to have strokes or heart attacks, and have other health problems than those who keep their blood pressure normal.

Why do people stop taking their blood pressure medicines?

Like most drugs, blood pressure meds can have side effects. Around two-thirds of people who take blood pressure meds will have a side effect when the drugs are first started. For example, diuretics (or “water pills”) can increase how often you need to pee. Cutting back on the amount of salt in your diet will help to reduce this side effect and make the water pill work better. Water pills can also cause dizziness or make you feel light-headed when you stand up too fast. Other blood pressure drugs might make you feel tired. Be sure to ask your prescriber or pharmacist what types of side effects you can expect with your blood pressure drugs and how long the side effects will last.

Another reason people stop taking blood pressure meds is that they forget to take them. Some drugs must be taken more than once each day. If you have trouble remembering to take your medicine, tell your prescriber or pharmacist. He or she can help you get a medicine that fits best with your lifestyle.

Some drugs can cost a lot of money. However, there is at least one generic drug available for every type of blood pressure medicine. If you have trouble paying for your blood pressure drugs (or any type of drug), let your prescriber or pharmacist know. He or she can help you get a drug that costs less and/or recommend a patient assistance program to help you pay for your medicine.

What can happen if I stop taking my blood pressure medicine?

Besides increasing your chance for a heart attack or stroke, there are other things that can happen if you stop taking your blood pressure drugs. When you re-start your drug, your dose may have to be lowered for a time to help prevent some side effects. Your prescriber will tell you how to slowly work your way back up to your usual dose.

If you stop taking some blood pressure meds all at once (or “cold turkey”) your blood pressure can get too high.

What should I do if I have a problem with my blood pressure medicines?

Never stop taking your blood pressure meds without letting your prescriber know. Speak with your prescriber and/or pharmacist to let them know about any problems you’re having. Then together you can make sure your blood pressure meds are the best ones for you.