Ask the You Docs: Stick with your blood pressure medications

May 11, 2013 

Q: I can't stay on schedule with my high blood pressure meds. My doctor keeps hounding me. Is it so bad not to take them regularly?

Gracie P., Hull, Mass.

A: You can skip a rock, skip school or simply skip for exercise. But skipping your meds is bad for your health; it allows your blood pressure to rebound to its previously high, potentially dangerous levels.

Overall, not taking prescribed medications costs the U.S. $177 billion annually in avoidable hospitalizations and other health care costs. Almost 33 percent of folks don't collect their prescribed medications from the pharmacy, and 25 percent of those with uncontrolled high blood pressure (like you) don't take their medication regularly. Why does this happen? Cost matters: 23 percent of uninsured people ages 18-64 skip their medicine to reduce costs; 14 percent on Medicaid do, as do 9 percent of those with private insurance.

If that's the problem, ask your doc about a less-expensive or generic med, or find out if there's an over-the-counter preparation that would work as well. Check out Rxassist.com or contact the manufacturer to see if there's a program to reduce your cost.

You need to talk with your doc about your condition and the medication so you really GET why you need to take it.

But there's another approach to take: We've got a plan that may let you reduce the amount of medication you take or get off it completely.

1. Start a nice-and-easy walking program: 30 minutes a day. Gradually build to 10,000 steps a day.

2. Eliminate the five food felons from your diet: all added sugar and sugar syrups, most saturated fat and all trans fats, and any grain that isn't 100 percent whole.

3. Consider working with a nutritionist or an exercise physiologist to keep you motivated.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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