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High blood pressure medications

Alternative Names

Hypertension - medicines

Information

Treating high blood pressure will help prevent problems such as heart disease, stroke, loss of eyesight, chronic kidney disease, and other blood vessel diseases.

You may need to take medicines to lower your blood pressure if lifestyle changes are not enough to bring your blood pressure to the target level.

Ask your doctor what your blood pressure target should be, based on your risk factors and other medical problems.

MEDICINES FOR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

Several types of medicine are used to treat high blood pressure. Your health care provider will decide which type of medicine is right for you. You may need to take more than one type.

Each type of blood pressure medicine listed below comes in different brand and generic names.

One or more of these blood pressure medicines are often used to treat high blood pressure:

  • Diuretics are also called water pills. They help your kidneys remove some salt (sodium) from your body. As a result, your blood vessels don't have to hold as much fluid and your blood pressure goes down.
  • Beta-blockers make the heart beat at a slower rate and with less force.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (also called ACE inhibitors) relax your blood vessels, which lowers your blood pressure.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (also called ARBs) work in about the same way as angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors.
  • Calcium channel blockers relax blood vessels by stopping calcium from entering cells.

Blood pressure medicines that are not used as often include:

  • Alpha-blockers help relax your blood vessels, which lowers your blood pressure.
  • Centrally acting drugs signal your brain and nervous system to relax your blood vessels.
  • Vasodilators signal the muscles in the walls of blood vessels to relax.
  • Renin inhibitors, a newer type of medicine for treating high blood pressure, act by reducing the amount of angiotensin precursors thereby relaxing your blood vessels.

SIDE EFFECTS OF BLOOD PRESSURE MEDICINES

Most blood pressure medicines are easy to take, but all medicines have side effects. Most of these are mild and may go away over time.

Some common side effects of high blood pressure medicines include:

  • Cough
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Erection problems
  • Feeling nervous
  • Feeling tired, weak, drowsy, or a lack of energy
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Weight loss or gain without trying

Tell your health care provider as soon as possible if you have side effects or the side effects are causing you problems. Most of the time, making changes to the dose of medicine or when you take it can help reduce side effects.

Never change the dose or stop taking a medicine on your own. Always talk to your health care provider first.

OTHER TIPS

Taking more than one medicine may change how your body absorbs or uses a drug. Vitamins or supplements, different foods, or alcohol may also change how a drug acts in your body.

Always ask your health care provider whether you need to avoid any foods, drinks, vitamins or supplements, or any other medicines while you are taking blood pressure medicine.

References

Kaplan NM. Systemic hypertension: Treatment. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 46.

Victor RG. Arterial hypertension. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 67.


Review Date: 5/13/2013
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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