One of the things that people keep telling us on YourPressure is that they’re worried about side effects from their blood pressure medications. We think it’s one of those cases where the experience of doctors and the experience of their patients’ are very different. Doctors see the benefits of lowering blood pressure and wonder what their patients are making a fuss about. Patients feel the side effects and wonder why they’re taking their blood pressure medications that don’t seem to make them feel any better.
The first thing that we need to clarify is that if you have high blood pressure, you usually don’t have any symptoms. It’s just something that you go around with. Most of the symptoms which people think are due to their high blood pressure are actually due to something else, such as stress. To complicate matters, being stressed tends to put your blood pressure up. To make things even more complicated, many of the medications that are used to treat stress, also lower your blood pressure…
So, basically, in most people, high blood pressure doesn’t cause any symptoms. However, there is a large overlap between people who are stressed and people who have high blood pressure. These people may well believe that their symptoms are caused by their high blood pressure, but in fact, it is their stress.
Next, we have to look at why blood pressure medications may have side effects. To do this, we’re going to divide side effects into two groups.
The first group are side effects caused by lowering your blood pressure. This includes dizziness and falls. These side effects are directly due to your blood pressure being lower. Often they are caused due to high blood pressure being overdiagnosed, or over treated once it is diagnosed. Unfortunately measuring your blood pressure at the GP surgery is not the best way to diagnose high blood pressure. Instead, it should be measured over a period of hours by a device called an ambulatory monitor. This is a small device with a cuff that you strap to yourself and then go about your normal business. It is the gold standard for diagnosing high blood pressure. If that is not available, then measuring your blood pressure at home is the next best thing. This is what we recommend at YourPressure.com.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, then the best place to monitor it is at home.
In both cases, by measuring your blood pressure at home you get a more accurate reading of what your average blood pressure is. Your readings at home tend to be lower. This means that you are less likely to end up over-treating your blood pressure if you measure it at home. This means less likelihood of dizziness or falls.
The second group of side effects are incidental to your medication. These can include things like a dry cough, swollen ankles, tiredness or frequent passing of urine. These side effects are not directly caused by your blood pressure being lower.
Again, if you’re measuring your blood pressure at home, it tends to give you a more accurate picture of your blood pressure. This means that you tend to be on lower doses of medication. This means that you’re less likely to have these types of side effects. It also means that if you do get side effects they’re likely to be less troublesome than if you were on higher doses of medication.
Last but not least, often at Yourpressure.com, we find that patients are suffering side effects because they’re on a combination of medications that doesn’t suit them. Often people are getting side effects like swollen ankles from being on a high dose of amlodipine. The solution is quite simple, which is to lower the dose, and add in another medication if required. Although you’d be on more types of medication, you’d have fewer side effects. We want to empower you so that you can make these choices with your healthcare professional.
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