High Blood Pressure Treatments – Medication



Lifestyle modifications can substantially reduce hypertension, but they can be difficult for most people to follow, and even when followed correctly may not completely eliminate hypertension. Various medications will commonly be prescribed to help control blood pressure. Many different drug classes are useful for this purpose. An overview of these useful hypertension drugs follows:

  • Diuretics
    including: Lasix (furosemide), Diuril (chlorothiazide), Aldactone (spironolactone)Commonly known as 'water pills', diuretics work by adjusting the fluid levels within the body. Specifically, diuretics cause a loss of sodium (salt) and water. Diuretics are a mainstay of high blood pressure treatment. They are low cost and proven to reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke even compared to more expensive drugs. There are several different types of diuretics: Thiazides, Loop diuretics, and Potassium sparing diuretics.

    The main problem causes by loop and thiazide diuretics is a loss of potassium. Low potassium can lead to heart arrhythmias. To remedy this problems, doctors will often prescribe potassium supplements or a potassium-sparing diuretic in conjunction with other diuretics.

    Possible side effects: Irritability, fatigue, depression, urinary incontinence, loss of sexual drive, breast swelling in men, and allergic reactions.

  • Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
    including: Lotension (benazepril), Altace (ramipril), Zestril (lisinopril)Angiotensin is a chemical signal that results in increased blood pressure. It is thought that angiotensin may also harm the body's organs in other ways. By blocking particular chemicals, the levels of angiotensin and other related chemicals are reduced. Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (commonly known at ACE inhibitors) are not only useful for people with high blood pressure but are also important for people with heart disease and diabetes. ACE Inhibitors should not be administered to pregnant women because they can hurt the developing fetus.

    Possible side effects: Irritating non-productive cough, allergic reaction that is rarely severe, drops in blood pressure. The cough may be improved with iron supplements.

  • Angiotensin Receptor Blockers
    including: Losartan, Cozaar, Diovan, BenicarAngiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB's) reduces the effects of the angiotensin system through a different mechanism then that utilizied by ACE Inhibitors. However, the results produced by ARBs are similar to those from ACE Inhibitors. These medications are more expensive than ACE Inhibitors and have not been studied as extensively, but may be good alternatives for people who do not tolerate ACE Inhibitors well.
  • Beta Blockers
    including: Tenormin (atenolol), Lopressor (metoprolol), Coreg (carvedilol)Beta-blockers act on the nervous system that innervates the heart and blood vessels and have their effect by reducing the frequency of heart beats. These medications are shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of heart disease. They are used for hypertension and other forms of heart disease.

    Possible side effects: Fatigue, vivid dreams, depression, memory loss, dizziness, and reduced ability to exercise. If side effects are intolerable, the medication must be weaned, it should not be stopped abruptly. Consult a physician if side effects are disturbing.

  • Vasodilators
    including: hydralazine, clonidine, and minoxidilVasodilators do what their name implies: they dilate (open up, cause to expand) the blood vessels. These medications are often used in combination with other medications. They have variable side effect profiles. They should not be discontinued without weaning under the supervision of a doctor because they can cause rebound hypertension (a dramatic return of hypertension) if stopped suddenly.

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