Unless hypertension is severe, lifestyle changes such as those discussed in the preceding section are strongly recommended before initiation of drug therapy. Adoption of the DASH diet is one example of lifestyle change repeatedly shown to effectively lower mildly-elevated blood pressure. If hypertension is high enough to justify immediate use of medications, lifestyle changes are initiated concomitantly.
There are many classes of medications for treating hypertension, together called antihypertensives, which — by varying means — act by lowering blood pressure. Evidence suggests that reduction of the blood pressure by 5-6 mmHg can decrease the risk of stroke by 40%, of coronary heart disease by 15%-20%, and reduces the likelihood of dementia, heart failure, and mortality from vascular disease.
The aim of treatment should be blood pressure control to <140/90 mmHg for most patients, and lower in certain contexts such as diabetes or kidney disease (some medical professionals recommend keeping levels below 120/80 mmHg).Each added drug may reduce the systolic blood pressure by 5-10 mmHg, so often multiple drugs are necessary to achieve blood pressure control.