High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other health complications. The good news is that there are many effective medications available to lower blood pressure and reduce the risks associated with hypertension.
For those taking blood pressure medication, one question that often comes up is: Can you ever stop taking the medication altogether and come off of it? The answer is maybe, under the right circumstances and with careful guidance from a doctor.
When is it possible to come off blood pressure medication?
It may be possible to come off blood pressure medication if:
- Your blood pressure has been well-controlled for an extended period of time (such as a year or longer)
- You have made positive lifestyle changes that help lower blood pressure naturally, such as losing weight, exercising, reducing sodium intake, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, etc.
- You have minimal heart disease or organ damage from high blood pressure
- You have infrequent spikes in blood pressure and otherwise normal readings
- You have no other high-risk conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease
If you meet some or all of these criteria, your doctor may determine you are a good candidate for attempting to come off medication under supervised conditions. However, this approach requires caution and patience.
The risks of stopping blood pressure medication
There are some risks to be aware of when it comes to stopping blood pressure medication:
- Blood pressure may spike or rise back up to unsafe levels
- Increased risk of heart attack, stroke or other complications
- May need to restart medication at a higher dose than before
- Coming off medication is often temporary; most people have to restart again at some point
- Requires close supervision by a doctor to monitor blood pressure frequently
For these reasons, doctors will typically advise against suddenly stopping medication on your own without medical guidance. Attempting to come off medication should only be done gradually and under a doctor’s supervision.
Steps for coming off blood pressure medication
If your doctor determines you may be a candidate for stopping medication, they will outline a controlled plan to help you come off the medication safely. This will typically involve:
- Gradually lowering the dose – Your doctor will have you slowly taper down your dose over weeks or months, not stop all at once.
- Frequently monitoring – You will need home and office blood pressure checks much more often to monitor any changes.
- Being prepared to restart – There needs to be a plan in place to immediately go back on medication if blood pressure rises again.
- Maintaining lifestyle changes – Sticking to a heart-healthy lifestyle gives you the best chance of staying off medication.
Your doctor may also recommend beginning with just coming off one blood pressure medication at a time if you are taking multiple medications.
Lifestyle tips to help stay off medication
Making the following positive lifestyle modifications can help keep your blood pressure controlled and increase the chances of staying off medication long-term:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein
- Limit sodium, alcohol, saturated fat and sugar
- Stay physically active with regular exercise
- Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke
- Manage stress through yoga, meditation or other relaxation techniques
- Take any other health conditions seriously and keep them under control
- See your doctor for regular checkups
Supplements and natural remedies
Some dietary supplements and natural remedies may help support healthy blood pressure levels when combined with medication or lifestyle changes. Some options to discuss with your doctor include:
- Potassium – Helps balance sodium levels to reduce blood pressure
- Magnesium – May improve blood flow and artery dilation
- Calcium – Some studies show it may lower systolic blood pressure
- Omega-3 fish oil – Can help lower triglyceride levels and reduce arterial plaque
- Garlic – Thought to increase nitric oxide production, which improves blood flow
- Tea – Certain compounds in green and black tea may reduce hypertension
Always consult your doctor before taking new supplements, especially in place of prescribed medication. Supplements are not well-regulated and may interfere with other medications you take.
When restarting blood pressure medication is necessary
The unfortunate truth is that most people are not able to come off blood pressure medication permanently. High blood pressure is a progressive condition, which means it tends to get worse over time. For many people, medication will be a lifelong necessity.
Your doctor will likely have you restart medication if:
- Your systolic pressure is consistently 140 mm Hg or higher
- Your diastolic pressure is consistently 90 mm Hg or higher
- You experience spikes in blood pressure when stressed or ill
- You start gaining excess weight, drinking alcohol regularly or become less physically active
- You develop complications like heart disease or chronic kidney disease
- You have age-related changes in blood pressure
The goal is to keep your blood pressure controlled at a healthy level, even if that ultimately means restarting medication as needed under medical guidance.
Partnering with your doctor
The decision to come off blood pressure medication should be made collaboratively with your doctor. Give your doctor as much relevant health information as possible to determine if you might be a candidate for stopping medication, including:
- Your full medication history and current dosages
- Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, stress, smoking/alcohol use
- Other medical conditions you have
- Family history of hypertension or heart disease
- Results of recent blood pressure checks
- Any symptoms or warning signs you experience
Your doctor will review all of this information along with your medical records to provide guidance on whether attempting to come off medication is appropriate for your situation or not.
Frequently monitoring blood pressure
If you do come off blood pressure medication, frequent monitoring of your blood pressure will be necessary to make sure it remains within a healthy range. This includes:
- Home blood pressure monitoring 1-2 times per day
- Blood pressure checks at every doctor’s visit
- Notifying your doctor immediately of any unusually high readings
- Keeping a written log of all blood pressure numbers to discuss with your doctor
- Routine follow-up appointments to review blood pressure trends
Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you have any symptoms of high blood pressure, like severe headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds or dizziness. With close oversight, your doctor can help guide treatment adjustments as needed.
Who is most likely to successfully stop medication?
Those who have the best chance of safely discontinuing blood pressure medication include:
- Younger adults in their 20s-40s
- Those newly diagnosed with mild hypertension
- People with minimal heart disease or organ damage
- Those proactively making positive lifestyle modifications
- People with strong social support and healthy coping mechanisms
- Those with normal blood pressure readings for 1-2 years while on meds
However, there are no guarantees. Even with close medical supervision, blood pressure may still increase again for most people after stopping medication. Regular monitoring and being prepared to go back on medication is key.
While it may be possible to come off blood pressure medication under the right circumstances, this approach requires great caution. Lifestyle changes and natural remedies can potentially help keep blood pressure in check, but most people do end up restarting medication again at some point.
Work closely with your doctor to determine if you might be a candidate for discontinuing medication, and keep up frequent blood pressure monitoring. This gives you the best chance for maintaining normal blood pressure levels while off medication, but have realistic expectations that you may need to go back on medication again.
With hypertension being a progressive, lifelong condition, consistent medical oversight and an individualized treatment plan are important for keeping your blood pressure controlled, protecting your health, and reducing your risk of complications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it possible to get off blood pressure medication after starting it?
It may be possible, but should only be done gradually and under close medical supervision. Your doctor will determine if you are a candidate for attempting to stop medication based on your health status, risk factors, and how well your blood pressure has been controlled.
How long does it take to get off blood pressure medicine?
It can take anywhere from several weeks to a year or more to slowly wean off blood pressure medication. Your doctor will create a tapering schedule to gradually decrease your dosage over time while monitoring your blood pressure.
Can you ever get off blood pressure medicine completely?
It is possible, but not common. Some people are able to discontinue medication long-term through lifestyle changes and natural remedies. But for most people, stopping medication completely is temporary and they end up having to restart again. Lifelong treatment is often required to control hypertension.
What happens when you just stop taking blood pressure pills?
Suddenly stopping medication on your own can lead to rebound hypertension, where blood pressure spikes to dangerously high levels. This puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke or other complications. Always consult your doctor before making changes to blood pressure medication.
How do I get off blood pressure medication naturally?
Lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, reducing salt intake, managing stress, and taking supplements may help support healthy blood pressure. But natural approaches should always be combined with medication as directed by your doctor.
Discontinuing blood pressure medication should only be attempted under a doctor’s supervision in limited, carefully considered situations. Most people with hypertension will need lifelong treatment to reduce risks and prevent complications. Lifestyle changes and natural remedies may help support medication treatment plans, but are not substitutes for medical advice from your doctor on managing this serious chronic condition.