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Ask the Expert: Pharmacist Cliff McElhinney on the Importance of Blood Pressure Medication

17 May

Cliff McElhinney, Pharmacist at Urban Pharmacy in Belfast, is supporting our blood pressure awareness campaign. Here, he answers your top questions and highlights the key role medication plays in managing high blood pressure.

Cliff Mc Elhinney Pharmacist

Ask The Expert: Cliff McElhinney, Pharmacist at Urban Pharmacy in Belfast

Cliff has been a Community Pharmacist for 35 years and has a special interest in helping patients quit smoking an d getting involved in some form of physical activity.

Q: If you are prescribed blood pressure medication, how important is it that you take it?

A: It is very important to take your medicine as directed and you may need two or more types of blood pressure medication to effectively treat your high blood pressure. The medicine will not necessarily make you feel any different, but this does not mean it is not working. If you miss doses, your medication will not work as well.

Q: Does it matter what time of day I take my medication?

A: It is best to take your medication at the same time every day so that it becomes part of your routine, and it could help you remember to take it. It does not really matter whether you take medication in the morning or the evening, whatever suits you best is the way to go.

Q: Are there any side effects related to blood pressure medication?

A: Any medication can cause side effects, but many people do not experience negative effects from taking medication for high blood pressure. For those that do, the side effects are often mild. If you are worried or are experiencing side effects however, talk to your GP. They can look at changing your dose or prescribing you an alternative medication to help you find a medication that works best for you. If you do experience side effects, do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first.

Q: If I am prescribed blood pressure medication, will I have to take it indefinitely?

A: You may need to take blood pressure medicine for the rest of your life. However, if you make healthy lifestyle changes to help reduce your blood pressure, your doctor might be able to reduce or stop your treatment if your blood pressure stays under control for several years. Do not stop taking your medication unless your doctor advises you to.

Q: Have you any top tips for remembering to take medication?

A: Pill boxes marked with the day and time are available from your pharmacy to help with this. Setting an alarm on your phone and post-it notes stuck on places you will notice them are also useful. If you take your medication in the morning, you could put the pill box beside your morning cereal as a reminder! Please make sure it stays well out of the reach of any children in the household however.

Q: If I am taking blood pressure medication does that mean I can eat what I like, not make healthy lifestyle changes etc?

    A: Taking medication does not eliminate the need for a healthy lifestyle. While medication can help control your high blood pressure, it is also important to eat healthily, reduce salt consumption, eat more fruit and vegetables, and enjoy regular physical activity. You should however consult your GP before embarking on an increase in activity.

    You should also look at reducing your alcohol intake, stop smoking, try and reduce your stress levels, and get a good night’s sleep. Above all, always remember to follow your doctor’s advice.

    Q: How often should I get my blood pressure checked if I am on blood pressure medication?

    A: When on blood pressure medication, it is recommended you get a blood pressure check with a health professional, such as your GP or pharmacist, once a year to ensure medication is still working effectively in managing your blood pressure.

    For more information about blood pressure, visit