Drugs Used for Hypertension
- Also known as "water pills," diuretics enhance the action of the kidneys to eliminate sodium and water, which reduces blood volume. They are considered optimal treatments for this condition and, for some, the only one necessary, yet not all people with high blood pressure are prescribed them. If your blood pressure does not improve with your current treatment regimen, discuss using diuretics with your doctor.
- Beta blockers reduce stress on the heart and open up the blood vessels, allowing the heart to beat more slowly and with less force. These medications do not work as well in African Americans on their own and are more effective when used with a diuretic.
ACE Inhibitors and Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors stop the formation of a chemical that narrows the blood vessels, allowing them to relax. They are an especially good treatment choice for people suffering from coronary artery disease, heart failure or kidney failure. These medications work best for African Americans when combined with a diuretic. Angiotensin II receptor blockers work in a similar fashion and are beneficial for the same people, but block the action rather than the formation of the chemical that narrows the arteries.
Calcium Channel Blockers
- Calcium channel blockers relax blood vessel muscles and slow the heart rate. These medicines work best on their own for African Americans compared to beta blockers or ACE inhibitors as a sole treatment. Grapefruit juice can increase blood levels of calcium channel blockers, which increases the chance of side effects.
- Renin, an enzyme made by the kidneys, promotes a series of chemical interactions that increase blood pressure. Renin inhibitors slow the kidney's formation of this chemical.
- In some cases, the primary hypertension treatments mentioned above do not lower blood pressure sufficiently. When this occurs, your doctor may prescribe some of the following medications to control your blood pressure.
Alpha blockers inhibit nerve impulses that can narrow blood vessels. Alpha-beta blockers perform a similar function but also slow the heartbeat to reduce output of blood moving through the vessels. Central acting agents stop the brain from sending messages to the nervous system to speed the heart rate and narrow the blood vessels. Vasodilators act on the muscles in the artery walls to keep them from tightening, which keeps the arteries from narrowing.