Blood pressure reducing medications are normally used when exercise and diet has failed to lower your blood pressure to a safe level or to control your pressure while you are making the necessary lifestyle changes to get the desired results.
The number of blood pressure lowering medicines available today is staggering and, because many of the presently available medications are often used in combination for treatment, picking the correct drug or combination of medicines presents your physician with something of a headache. However, here is an overview of the different groups of blood pressure lowering medications presently in everyday use.
The first line of attack are diuretics which are simply designed to rid the body of excess fluid and, more importantly in terms of high blood pressure, to reduce sodium levels.
Frequently used diuretics include Midamor, Esidrix, Bumex, Lasix, Hydrodiuril, Lozol, Diuril, Hygroton and Aldactone.
A number of diuretic reduce potassium levels in the body and may produce weakness, tiredness and leg cramps. This can usually be countered effectively by adding foods that contain potassium to your meals or by taking potassium supplements in either liquid or tablet form. Diuretics may also produce increased blood sugar levels and a change of diet or drug, insulin or oral anti-diabetic medication may be needed for diabetics.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors enlarge the blood vessels and thus reduce the resistance to blood flow and pressure within these vessels. As a consequence the heart does not need to work as much to push blood around the body.
Frequently used ACE inhibitors include Lotensin, Monopril, Altace, Univasc, Mavik, Vasotec, Accupril, Aceon, Prinivil, Capoten and Zestril.
ACE inhibitors may cause a chronic dry cough, a skin rash and in rare cases kidney damage.
AT-2 Receptor Antagonists
Angiotensin-2 (AT-2) receptor antagonists work in a similar manner to ACE inhibitors but they have the benefit for many patients of not resulting in the dry cough often experienced when taking ACE inhibitors.
Commonly used AT-2 receptor antagonists include Atacand, Micardis, Cozaar, Avapro and Teveten.
There are normally few side effects with AT-2 receptor antagonists although in a few patients they may produce occasional dizziness.
Beta blockers reduce blood pressure by decreasing both the heart rate and output.
Commonly used beta blockers include Sectral, Cartrol, Kerlone, Betapace, Blocadren, Toprol XL, Zebeta, Tenormin, Lopressor, Corgard, Inderal and Ziac.
Some beta blockers may cause insomnia, the symptoms of asthma, cold hands and feet, depression, tiredness and in rare cases can produce impotence.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Calcium channel blockers help to lower blood pressure by impeding the flow of calcium into the heart and blood vessels. Calcium channel blockers include what is generally agreed to be the most prescribed blood pressure drug in the world – Norvasc.
Other common calcium blockers include Lotrel, Calan, Isoptin, Procardia, Adalat, Sular, Plendil, Nimotop, Cardizem, Tiazac, Vascor and Verelan.
Side effects differ considerably across the range of calcium blockers but a few frequently experienced side effects are headache, palpitations, constipation, dizziness and swollen ankles.
As you can see there is an enormous number of medications available to reduce blood pressure and when you take into account that these are often used together by combining for example ACE inhibitors and calcium blockers, ACE inhibitors and diuretics or AT-2 receptor antagonists and diuretics then the number of possible treatments is almost too high to count.
Of course on the one hand this is good news as it means that it is possible to tailor treatment to the exact needs of each individual. On the other hand however it also makes selecting the correct treatment somewhat hard.
Category: Healthcare Basics