Common Blood Pressure Medications
- Antihypertensive drugs, which are medicines used to treat high blood pressure, are grouped into five different categories, including diuretics, calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, alpha-blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These drugs can be taken singularly or in various combinations. If none of these medications or combinations lower your blood pressure, your doctor will probably recommend other drugs.
- Diuretics, one of the oldest medications, are water pills that help the body eliminate sodium and water, reducing fluid held by blood vessels. The most commonly used diuretics are thiazide water pills, which work in the tubules that are the structures carrying urine to the kidneys. A few examples include furesemide (Lasix), chlorthalidone (Thalitone) and hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix).
Calcium Channel Blockers
- Calcium channel blockers reduce blood pressure by lowering the flow of calcium into the muscle cells that constrict the width of blood vessels. When there's less calcium, blood vessels are wider, making muscles less active. This allows blood to flow more smoothly, which lowers blood pressure. Amlodipine (Norvasc) is a calcium channel blocker.
- Beta-blockers slow down the heart beat, enabling blood to pass through blood vessels more smoothly. Because beta-blockers reduce the rate at which the heart beats, pressure is lowered on the arteries. Beta-blockers also act on hormones that regulate blood pressure. Acbutolol (Sectral) and atenolol (Tenormin) are common beta-blockers.
- Alpha-blockers use a different receptor than beta-blockers in that they target the alpha receptors that control artery constriction. They also interfere with the hypertension-raising hormone, norepinephrine. Some of newer alpha-blockers include prazosin (Minipress) and terazosin (Flomax).
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitors
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors stop the body from producing the hormone angiotension 11, which causes blood vessels to constrict. ACE inhibitors stimulate the release of the hormone, aldosterone, which regulates blood pressure. An example is benzepril (Lotensin).
- Because drugs for hypertension typically don't make a difference in the way you feel, you can easily forget to take them. However, failing to take them regularly can be dangerous.
Just as with most medications, hypertension drugs can have side effects. Although they're not that severe or experienced often, they can include headaches, nausea, vomiting, weight loss or gain, diarrhea, constipation, chest congestion, fever, anxiety and fatigue.