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Adhering to My BP Medications: A Patient's Point of View

About the Author

Pranam Shetty
I am the founder and CEO of Evolve Medical Systems. We are a Digital Health Company that specializes in mobile health apps. Some of our apps include SmartBP - a mobile based blood pressure management tool and Glucobyte a diabetes management app. I am an engineer by trade and love to build stuff. I have built various medical devices over 20 years. I live in Minneapolis - The coldest city with the warmest people!
I am the founder and CEO of Evolve Medical Systems. We are a Digital Health Company that specializes in mobile health apps. Some of our apps include SmartBP - a mobile based blood pressure management tool and Glucobyte a diabetes management app. I am an engineer by trade and love to build stuff. I have built various medical devices over 20 years. I live in Minneapolis - The coldest city with the warmest people!

High blood pressure can lead to many serious complications and health issues. Proper treatment and management of high blood pressure is pertinent in helping to prevent these issues. There are many different types of medications available that may be beneficial for an individual experiencing high blood pressure. A doctor will determine which medication may be a fit, but adjustments may need to be made over time. While the benefits of taking blood pressure medication is clear, many patients still struggle with taking their blood pressure medications.

According to CDC, 70% of adults over 65 have hypertension but only half have it under control. Even with part D medicare coverage, 5 million people are not taking their meds. While one in four skip doses and stop taking their meds all together, the rate of non-adherence is much higher because even if the prescription is filled, the patient may not be taking the medications. Table 2 in the article "Adherence in Hypertension" by Michel Burnier and Brent M. Egan lists the five categories of factors impacting adherence to prescription medications are socio-demographics, healthcare team, treatment therapy, physical or mental conditions and patient related factors.

How Does Blood Pressure Medication Work?

Blood pressure medications have the ability to work in several different ways. This may depend on your care team and the best type of treatment plan for you. Blood pressure medication should be taken exactly as directed. You should always speak with your doctor or care team before stopping or starting any medications. If you experience any unwanted side effects of your medication, you should consult your doctor. Blood pressure medication helps to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. It does this by helping to relax your blood vessels, blocking nerve activity, and helping your body get rid of excess water.

To determine whether or not you require medication for your high blood pressure, you will need to speak with your doctor. Your blood pressure readings will be evaluated over a length of time. Utilizing a home blood pressure monitor can help you record more frequent readings than how often you stop in at the doctor’s office. By going over these readings and your previous medical history, your doctor will determine the best course of action.

Hypertension is Known as The Silent Killer

When a patient is experiencing high blood pressure, they are likely to experience little to no symptoms. This is true even if a patient is experiencing very high blood pressure. While the initial symptoms high blood pressure presents may be unnoticeable, unmanaged hypertension can lead to deadly consequences.

Why wouldn’t a patient manage their high blood pressure and take their medication?

Only 20% of patients that have been diagnosed with high blood pressure take the medication that they are supposed to. “Another 20 percent are not taking any of their blood pressure medications,” says study author Dr. Peter Blanestijn.

Side Effects of Blood Pressure Medications

Depending on the type of medication, some of the side effects of blood pressure medications that could occur are increase in urination, worsen control of asthma, leg swelling or constipation, development of a cough, face and throat swelling (called angioedema). These side effects may result in patient not adhering to their medications. Check out our article on the different types of common blood pressure medications. Talk to your doctor and make sure they are aware of your discomfort and side effects experience with the prescribed medication.

Undermine the Severe Impact of High Blood Pressure

When patients experience physical symptoms, they are more motivated to take their medication to control these symptoms. A patient will then continue taking their medication in order to alleviate the issue or to seek relief. With high blood pressure, there are rarely ever noticeable symptoms. So, this could lead to patients not taking their medication. Future health risks of high blood pressure include life-threatening conditions, such as heart disease, stroke or dementia. Therefore, patients should take their high blood pressure seriously.

Unaware They are Experiencing High Blood Pressure

Since when a patient experiences high blood pressure they may not present any symptoms at all, many patients may be unaware that they even have high blood pressure and may not be monitoring their blood pressure at home. If this is the case, high blood pressure will usually be caught on a routine exam at their primary care provider. However, individuals may also be able to take note of their elevated blood pressure by using an arm cuff. These can be found in most pharmacies and are also available for purchase to use at home. But, individuals that use these at-home cuffs will want to make sure that they are using them properly to get the most accurate readings.

Unaware of The Risks of Untreated High Blood Pressure

Damage that occurs from high blood pressure is typically done over time. If high blood pressure is left undetected or unmanaged, it could lead to severe consequences. Blood pressure that is high or too long begins to affect a person’s blood vessels. This can cause the arteries to narrow and make your circulatory system work in overdrive. Individuals may experience heart failure, a heart attack, kidney disease, or peripheral artery disease.

Socioeconomic Conditions and Stress

If a patient perceives that their blood pressure is a result of the stress or socioeconomic condition at the time, they may not take their anti-hypertensive medications as they may believe that it is only temporary.

Confusion on which Pills to Take and When

Patient can forget to take their medications or are confused on when to take them. Many patients take up to 15 to 20 pills and it can be very complex to keep track especially if they are meant to be taken at certain times and days of the week.

Cost of Blood Pressure Medications

A patient that has diagnosed high blood pressure, but who doesn’t take their medication, is putting themselves at risk. However, an individual with high blood pressure may not be able to afford their medication. If you are having trouble affording your high blood pressure medication, it is imperative that you speak with your doctor. Ask your insurance company or doctor if there are any programs that can incentivize or reward you for taking your medications as prescribed.

Your Path Towards Management and Prevention

It's possible to ignore the significance of high blood pressure, especially when life gets in the way. However, it is really important to realize that the consequences of high blood pressure when you get older are serious and life-threatening. Managing your high blood pressure is all encompassing and you will need to take other steps, besides medication, to ensure that you help to keep your blood pressure levels healthy. Besides maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, as well as regularly consulting your doctor, some other things you can do is:

Open Communications with your Doctor

Trust your doctor and have open and personal communications with them. Don't be afraid to share how you feel and if you have missed your pills and more importantly, let them know the reason why you are not comfortable taking your meds. This highly recommended podcast where a patient shares her personal experience with a group of doctors, discusses the ineffectiveness of the traditional "Compliance" approach and the importance of "Shared Decision Making" where you and the doctor agree upon how you will manage your blood pressure.

Keep track of your numbers and medications

Regularly track your blood pressure readings. Many patients utilize at-home blood pressure monitor cuffs to check their readings daily. Readings should be taken at the same time each day. You should ensure that you are using the machine properly, as well as recording the readings accurately. This will provide you with valuable insight into how well your medication is working, as well as the status of your blood pressure. Also, keep track of your medications and use reminders to help remember when to take your meds. Keep track and share your medication adherence with your doctor.

Know the risks

Become aware of the risks associated with high blood pressure being left untreated and unmanaged, as well as your own individual risks that will be discussed with you by your doctor. Knowing your risks can provide you with insight into your condition, as well as encourage you to properly manage your high blood pressure.

Make actionable changes

Just becoming aware of the damaging effects of high blood pressure isn’t enough, you will also want to make changes to your life. Your doctor can discuss with you lifestyle changes that can help you with your high blood pressure. This might include changing your diet, switching medications, or engaging in more physical activity. Regularly tracking and managing your blood pressure helps you to make a proactive change towards bettering your health. Remember, that it's not just about how to get your numbers down but the benefit how does it affect your body so that decades from now you will be in better health.

SmartBP: A Patient-Centered Blood Pressure Management Tool

SmartBP, a blood pressure tracker that is compatible with Apple Health and Google Fit, allows you to record your blood pressure measurements conveniently. You will be able to easily spot trends, analyze your blood pressure data, and become more involved in your health journey. The SmartBP tool gives you the power to see what is and isn’t working with your treatment plan to help you make actionable changes that not only allow you to become more proactive, but also give you insight into your blood pressure management.

Important: The information provided is NOT a substitute for a doctor or professional healthcare or advice. Any health related information provided in SmartBP® app and this website is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the advice of healthcare professionals.

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