Many people only take blood pressure medication when they’re under stress and worry about side effects, risking their long-term health.
If you’ve been prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure, do you take it every day? You’re not alone if you don’t, say researchers from King’s College London who analysed data from 53 different studies relating to patients’ adherence to treatment for raised blood pressure. Study participants had uncomplicated hypertension – those with diabetes or cardiovascular disease were not included.
Their evidence suggests that most people have no real understanding of their health problems and implies that doctors need to explain the causes and symptoms and actively discuss side effects so that any fears can be allayed.
A doctor may know why and how a certain medication will help prevent disease or symptoms but unless a patient fully understands what they’re prescribed they’re far less likely to stick to the treatment. And when they don’t take their medication correctly, the risk of adverse effects or disease rises.
GPs usually advise patients on lifestyle changes they can make to lower their blood pressure and often prescribe medication such as an ACE-inhibitor as well.
Yet the researchers found that patients’ understanding of what causes hypertension was often woolly and sometimes incorrect, which led them to make bad choices when it came to taking their medication.
Participants reported assessing their own blood pressure levels based on how stressed they felt or on symptoms they associated with hypertension. While stress can be a factor for hypertension it hasn’t been found to be an important element. Some patients also avoided taking pills because they were worried about potential adverse side effects or because they wanted to avoid becoming addicted to the medication.