10 Drugs Commonly Prescribed for High Blood Pressure

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High blood pressure—or hypertension—occurs when blood flows through your blood vessels with too much force. If you have high blood pressure, you’re one of about 85 million American adults who also have it. However, many people do not even know they have high blood pressure because there are usually no obvious symptoms. This fact is why high blood pressure gets the name “silent killer.” It can lead to life-threatening complications, such as heart attack and stroke, without warning signs.

If your doctor diagnoses high blood pressure, you will probably need to make some lifestyle changes. However, medication for consistent blood pressure control is a vital part of treatment.

Classes of Blood Pressure Medications

Drugs that treat high blood pressure are known as antihypertensives. There are many so-called “classes” of antihypertensives and many drugs within each class. This results in a large number of drugs doctors can use to treat high blood pressure. To assist doctors in choosing treatment, they follow guidelines and recommendations from experts in the field.

Commonly prescribed classes of hypertension medications include:

  • Thiazide diuretics. These drugs work by increasing the amount of fluid the body eliminates through urination. A lot of people call diuretics “water pills.” By also reducing your body’s volume of blood, pressure on the artery walls decreases. Common side effects of diuretics are increased urination, thirst, dizziness, and sensitivity to sunlight.

  • Calcium channel blockers. This class relaxes blood vessels and decreases heart rate. Possible side effects include heart palpitations, ankle swelling, constipation, headache, and dizziness.

  • ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors. These drugs block an enzyme to reduce the body’s amount of angiotensin. Less angiotensin helps relax blood vessels. Common side effects of ACE inhibitors are skin rash and a dry cough.

  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers. This class directly blocks angiotensin to relax blood vessels. Common side effects are dizziness and lightheadedness, especially when standing up from a seated position.

  • Beta blockers. These drugs block adrenalin, lower blood pressure by decreasing your heart rate and the force of each beat.

When choosing among these classes, your doctor will consider many factors, including your other health conditions and your race. For example, African American people benefit most from starting treatment with a thiazide diuretic or a calcium channel blocker, studies show. However, someone with diabetes may benefit more from using an ACE inhibitor.

After starting treatment, your doctor will regularly monitor your blood pressure. It may be necessary to adjust the dose, change drugs, or add a second drug to control your blood pressure. Your doctor can choose this second drug from any of the first-line classes. In some cases, your doctor may need to consider another antihypertensive class, such as beta blockers.

Common Medications for High Blood Pressure

Within each class of antihypertensive drug, your doctor has more choices to make. Some classes contain just a few drug options. Others, such as ACE inhibitors, include many drugs. Finding the right choice for you may involve some trial and error. Here is a summary of 10 drugs commonly prescribed for high blood pressure:

  1. Amlodipine (Norvasc) is a calcium channel blocker. You usually take it once a day. Most people find once daily dosing to be convenient and easy to remember. Amlodipine is also a treatment for angina.

  2. Benazepril (Lotensin) is an ACE inhibitor. At low doses, you usually take it once a day. Your doctor may recommend splitting higher doses to twice a day.

  3. Chlorthalidone (Hygroton) is a thiazide diuretic. The usual dose is once a day with food, preferably breakfast. It also treats fluid retention from conditions like heart failure.

  4. Enalapril (Vasotec) is an ACE inhibitor. For high blood pressure, you usually take it once a day. It is also a treatment for heart failure.

  5. Hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril, Microzide) is a thiazide diuretic. It comes as a capsule or tablet you typically take once a day. Like other thiazide diuretics, it also treats fluid retention, or edema.

  6. Irbesartan (Avapro) is an angiotensin II receptor blocker. The usual dose is once daily. It is also a treatment for kidney problems in people with type 2 diabetes.

  7. Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) is an ACE inhibitor. It is also a drug you usually take once a day. Lisinopril is also a treatment for heart failure.

  8. Losartan (Cozaar) is an angiotensin II receptor blocker. In most cases, the dose is once a day. Doctors also use it to decrease the risk of stroke in people with an enlarged heart.

  9. Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL) is a beta blocker. It comes in both an immediate-release and an extended-release form. It also helps lower the risk of repeat heart attacks and treats angina and congestive heart failure.

  10. Valsartan (Diovan) is an angiotensin II receptor blocker. It is also a treatment for heart failure and to improve survival after a heart attack. For high blood pressure, you usually take it once a day.

There are many other options available for treating high blood pressure. If you are experiencing side effects or are otherwise not happy with your current medicine, talk with your doctor. It may be possible to try a different drug and get better results. Healthy lifestyle habits also help lower blood pressure. Doctors prescribe regular physical activity and a low-salt diet to compliment the effect of your blood pressure medication.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Aug 14

  1. Facts About High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/GettheFactsAboutHighBloodPressure/The-Facts-About-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002050_Article.jsp

  2. James PA, Oparil S, Carter BL, Cushman WC, Dennison-Himmelfarb C, et al. 2014 evidence-based guideline for the management of high blood pressure in adults: report from the panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8). JAMA. 2014 Feb 5;311(5):507-20.

  3. Symphony Health Pharmaceutical Prescription Data. Accessed June 2017.

  4. Types of Blood Pressure Medications. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Types-of-Blood-Pressure-Medications_UCM_303247_Article.jsp

  5. What Is High Blood Pressure? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP_WhatIs.html

  6. Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/

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