High Blood Pressure: Save on Medication Costs

February 7th, 2020

More than half of all adults in the U.S. and one in four adults in Canada have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Hypertension occurs when the pressure against the walls of the blood vessels is higher than it should be. The heart then must work extra hard to pump blood through them. Plus, the high pressure is hard on those blood vessels and can damage the artery walls.

High blood pressure can lead to many serious problems – stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, and blindness, to name a few. High blood pressure is sometimes called a “silent killer” because it doesn’t usually show symptoms such as pain. Because patients don’t feel any differently, they can forget to take their medications or intentionally stop taking them, which can lead to problems over time. There are many different medications to treat high blood pressure, including extended-release forms and combination products, which can also lead to patient confusion. 

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure can be caused by a number of different things. Older people are more likely to have high blood pressure than younger people. African Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure than Caucasians. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure than people who maintain a normal weight. There also are several medical conditions which can cause high blood pressure, including high cholesterol, diabetes, and kidney problems. The use of some over-the-counter medications, prescription meds, and smoking or chewing tobacco can also cause high blood pressure.

What blood pressure is considered “high”?

The definition for what is considered high blood pressure has been tightened. In 2017, new guidelines from the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and nine other health organizations lowered the numbers for the diagnosis of hypertension to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and higher for all adults. The previous guidelines set the threshold at 140/90 mm Hg for people younger than age 65 and 150/80 mm Hg for those ages 65 and older.

The first number of a blood pressure reading is systolic pressure, which is the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart contracts. The second number is diastolic pressure, which is the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is relaxed between beats. Both numbers are important when diagnosing and treating high blood pressure, and healthcare providers and pharmacists will look to these when optimizing medication therapy.

What is the goal of treating high blood pressure, and why is it important?

The goal of treating high blood pressure is to reduce the blood pressure below the desired target for a patient’s age and condition. Getting blood pressure below the target is important to help reduce the patient’s risk of heart attack, stroke and damage to organs such as the kidneys and eyes.

What are some of the different kinds of medications used to treat high blood pressure?

There are several different kinds of medications used to treat high blood pressure. Often a medication will be selected for treating a patient’s high blood pressure if it’s also good for another problem the patient has, such as heart failure or kidney problems. Medical conditions should be kept up-to-date in patient profiles at their pharmacies so that pharmacists can make sure patients are on the most appropriate therapy.

Diuretics, or “water pills” (e.g., chlorthalidone, furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide), are one of the most common medications used to treat high blood pressure. These help the body get rid of unneeded water and salt. When the body is rid of excess water and salt, blood pressure is lowered.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (e.g., enalapril [Vasotec], lisinopril [PrinivilZestril], etc.) and Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB’s) (e.g., losartan [Cozaar], valsartan [Diovan], etc.) are also used very commonly to treat high blood pressure. These medications help to relax blood vessels which lowers blood pressure. They are particularly good for patients with diabetes and kidney problems.

Beta-blockers (e.g., carvedilol [Coreg], metoprolol succinate [Toprol XL; U.S.], etc.) are good for treating high blood pressure in patients with heart failure or after a heart attack. They can help dilate, or relax, blood vessels and reduce the heart rate.

Calcium channel blockers (CCB’s) (e.g., amlodipine [Norvasc], nifedipine [Procardia], etc.) are good for treating high blood pressure in patients where there isn’t an underlying cause. Calcium channel blockers prevent movement of calcium in and out of cells which slows down heart rate and opens up blood vessels.

There are other medications that you may see used to help lower blood pressure. For example, hydralazine and clonidine are also used for treating high blood pressure. Hydralazine is considered a direct-acting blood pressure medication, since it works on smooth muscles in blood vessels. Clonidine is an “alpha-agonist” that works on the central nervous system to relax blood vessels. 

HealthShareRx carries all the medications listed above at considerable savings over conventional pharmacy outlets. To learn more, go to healthsharerx.com to find out how to order or transfer your prescriptions. It is easy and their staff is ready to help. You may also call HealthShareRx customer service at 888-519-8188 for assistance.