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All About Blood Pressure Medication
Your doctor may prescribe antihypertension medication if your blood pressure is high. There are several kinds of medication commonly taken alone or in combination, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Types of medication
Thiazide diuretics are often the first medications your doctor will try to treat your high blood pressure. They help to lower blood pressure by eliminating excess fluid and salt that accumulate in the body. The excess fluid is eliminated in the urine. Examples of commonly prescribed diuretics are hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril), chlorothiazide (Diuril), spironolactone (Aldactone), and others.
These keep the heart from pumping too hard by blocking the action of the hormones that normally increase heart rate and blood pumped out from the heart. Examples of commonly prescribed beta blockers are atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL), nadolol (Corgard), propranolol (Inderal), and others.
ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers
ACE inhibitors reduce the production of the enzyme angiotensin, which makes blood vessels constrict. ACE inhibitors allow blood vessels to expand so that blood can flow more easily and the heart can work more efficiently. Examples of commonly prescribed ACE inhibitors are benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), and others.
Angiotensin II receptor blockers block the effects of angiotensin, preventing it from effecting the heart and blood vessels. Examples of commonly prescribed angiotensin II receptor blockers are candesartan (Atacand), losartan (Cozaar), telmisartan (Micardis), valsartan (Diovan), and others.
ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers should not be taken by pregnant women. These medications can cause a risk of birth defects. If you have high blood pressure and plan to become pregnant or are currently pregnant, discuss this study with your health care provider.
Calcium channel blockers
These cause blood vessels to dilate or widen by reducing the calcium concentration in their cells. Some also slow the heart rate.
Some commonly prescribed calcium channel blockers are amlodipine (Norvasc, Lotrel), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), and others.
Alpha blockers prohibit the production of a hormone that makes the blood vessels constrict. Examples of alpha blockers are doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress), and terazosin (Hytrin).
Guidelines for taking medication
Blood pressure medications may produce side effects such as headaches, nausea, weakness, insomnia, or sexual problems. Ask your doctor about changing or modifying your prescription if you develop side effects.
To benefit from your medication, follow these guidelines:
Take all your medication as prescribed. Be sure you know whether it should be taken with food or on an empty stomach.
Take your pills at the same time each day. Consider putting a check mark on your calendar after you've taken them.
Never skip a day or decide not to take your pills because you have side effects or don't feel your blood pressure is high. Remember: High blood pressure has no outward symptoms.
Refill your prescription before it runs out.
Take the proper amount of medication each day. Don't adjust your dosage without your doctor's approval.
Don't stop taking your medication because your blood pressure tests normal. It's testing normal because you're taking the medication.
Don't skip appointments to have your blood pressure checked.
Online ResourcesAmerican Heart Association http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/Types-of-Blood-Pressure-Medications_UCM_303247_Article.jsp
Institute for Clinical Symptoms Improvement http://www.icsi.org/guidelines_and_more/gl_os_prot/cardiovascular/hypertension_4/hypertension_diagnosis_and_treatment__11.html
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/hypertension/express.pdf
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/