Medications for High Blood Pressure

By

Jennifer Acosta Scott

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When you have high blood pressure, your doctor may want you to take a prescription medication. These drugs can help lower your blood pressure to a more normal level, or less than 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). Many different medications can do this. Your doctor will work with you to find the best drug or combination of drugs for you.

Each blood pressure drug belongs to a certain class, depending on how it works in the body. Here are the major types of blood pressure lowering drugs:

  • Beta blockers. These drugs help your heart beat with less force. That leads to a lower blood pressure. Common beta blockers include propranolol (Inderal), atenolol (Tenormin), and metoprolol (Lopressor).

  • ACE inhibitors. These drugs prevent your body from making angiotensin II. That's a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow. When your body can't make it, blood vessels relax and blood pressure goes down. ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors include lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil), benazepril (Lotensin), and quinapril (Accupril).

  • Angiotensin II antagonists. Another name for these is angiotensin II receptor blockers. They lower blood pressure by blocking the action of angiotensin II. Drugs in this class include valsartan (Diovan), telmisartan (Micardis), and irbesartan (Avapro).

  • Calcium channel blockers. These drugs relax the blood vessels. They do this by keeping calcium from entering the cells of your blood vessels and heart muscle. This lowers blood pressure. There are many different calcium channel blockers. Examples are diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor XR,Tiazac), nifedipine (Adalat CC, Procardia), and amlodipine (Norvasc).

  • Diuretics. Diuretic medications help your kidneys remove excess water and salt from your body. When the extra fluid is gone, blood pressure goes down. These drugs are sometimes combined with other blood pressure medications. Common diuretics include hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide, Oretic), chlorothiazide (Diuril), and chlorthalidone (Thalitone).

  • Alpha blockers. These drugs act on nerve tissue causing the blood vessels to relax and leading to a decrease in blood pressure. Another name for this type of drug is “peripherally-acting alpha-adrenergic blocker.” Examples of alpha blockers are prazosin (Minipress), doxazosin (Cardura), and terazosin (Hytrin).

  • Centrally acting alpha-adrenergics. These drugs stimulate receptors in the brain  that lower blood pressure by decreasing the heart rate and relaxing the blood vessels. They also go by the name “centrally acting alpha-agonist hypotensive agents.” Common examples are clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay, Jenloga) and guanfacine (Tenex, Intuniv).

  • Vasodilators. As their name suggest, vasodilators "dilate," or relax, the muscles of the blood vessel walls. This lets them widen and lowers blood pressure. Some vasodilators for high blood pressure are minoxidil (Loniten) and hydralazine (Apresoline).

  • Alpha-beta blockers. Like alpha blockers, these drugs lower blood pressure by affecting nerve signals. However, they also act like beta blockers, decreasing the heart rate.  Some alpha-beta blockers are labetalol (Trandate) and carvedilol (Coreg).

  • Renin inhibitors. Like other blood pressure medicines, these drugs work by decreasing certain hormones in the body that cause blood vessels to constrict or tighten. Aliskiren (Tekturna) is one example.

  • Combination drugs. These blood pressure medications combine two types of drugs. They are known by their brand names. Some combination drugs for high blood pressure are Exforge (amlodipine and valsartan), Lotrel (benazepril and amlodipine), and Diovan HCT (hydrochlorothiazide and valsartan).

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    Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 17, 2016

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    Medical References

    1. High Blood Pressure -- Medicines to Help You. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/ucm118594.htm
    2. How Is High Blood Pressure Treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/treatment.html 
    3. Rubin R. Hormone/Behavior Relations of Clinical Importance: Endocrine Systems Interacting with Brain and Behavior. Burlington, MA: Elsevier Inc; 2004: p. 67. Available online at: http://books.google.com/books?id=VjUkcirpP0gC&pg=PA67&dq=angiotensin+II+hormone&hl=en&sa=X&ei=X0OqU8... 
    4. Clonidine. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682243.html 
    5. Guanfacine. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a601059.html 
    6. Minoxidil Oral. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682608.html 
    7. Hydralazine. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682246.html 
    8. Tindall W. Patient-Centered Pharmacology: Learning System for the Conscientious Prescriber. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company. 2014: p. 107. Available online at: http://books.google.com/books?id=-Q_TAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA107&dq=%22Alpha-beta+blocker%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=7k2...
    9. Aliskiren. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a607039.html

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