All About Blood Pressure Medicine
If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), your healthcare provider may prescribe
medicine to lower it. There are several kinds of medicines. You may need to take more
than 1 medicine.
Types of medicine
Diuretics are often the first medicine your doctor will try to treat your high blood
pressure. Diuretics help lower blood pressure by removing excess fluid and salt in
the body through the urine. Examples of common diuretics are:
One common side effect of this medicine is more urination. Some diuretics also cause
you to lose potassium. You may need to take a potassium supplement. This depends on
the type of diuretic that you take. Make sure you talk to your healthcare team to
know what type of diuretic you take. Ask if you need monitoring of your electrolyte
levels and kidney function while taking these types of medicines.
These clock a hormone that increases the heart rate and blood pressure. This helps
relax the blood vessels to improve blood flow. It also increases the pumping strength
of the heart. Examples of beta blockers are:
Make sure you know how to check your heart rate while taking these types of medicines.
If you have a history of asthma, beta blockers can make the asthma worse.
ACE inhibitors and ARBs
ACE stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme. ACE inhibitors reduce the production
of the enzyme angiotensin. This enzyme makes blood vessels constrict. ACE inhibitors
allow blood vessels to expand. This is so that blood can flow more easily and the
heart can work more efficiently. Examples of ACE inhibitors are:
ARBs are angiotensin II receptor blockers. ARBs block the effects of angiotensin.
They prevent it from affecting the heart and blood vessels. You may need this medicine
if you can't tolerate ACE inhibitors. Examples of ARBs are:
Pregnant women should not take ACE inhibitors or ARBs. These medicines can cause a
risk of birth defects. If you have high blood pressure and plan to become pregnant
or are pregnant, contact your healthcare provider right away.
You should have regular blood tests to make sure these medicines don't affect your
kidney function or electrolyte levels. Talk with your healthcare team about how often
you should have these blood tests.
Calcium channel blockers
These cause blood vessels to widen (dilate) by reducing the amount of calcium in their
cells. Some also slow the heart rate. Some calcium channel blockers are:
Alpha blockers block a hormone that makes the blood vessels constrict. This helps
relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow. Examples of alpha blockers are:
Vasodilators lower blood pressure by relaxing the blood vessels and improve blood
flow. Examples of these medicines are hydralazine and minoxidil.
Guidelines for taking medicines
Blood pressure medicine may cause side effects such as:
Ask your healthcare provider about changing your prescription if you have side effects.
To benefit from your medicine, follow these guidelines:
Take all your medicine as prescribed. Ask if you should take it with food or on an
Take your pills at the same time each day. Put a check mark on your calendar after
you've taken them.
Use a daily or weekly pillbox that you can fill ahead of time. Then you will know
if you have taken your medicine each day.
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 usually has
no symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider about side effects and possible solutions.
If you miss a dose or doses, contact your healthcare provider and ask what to do.
Before buying any over-the-counter medicine, ask the pharmacist if it interacts with
your blood pressure medicine. This is very important. Some over-the-counter products
can have serious interactions with blood pressure medicines.
Refill your prescription before it runs out.
Take the right amount of medicine each day. Don't adjust your dosage without your
Don't stop taking your medicine if your blood pressure tests normal. It's normal because
your medicine is working.
Don't skip appointments to have your blood pressure checked or blood tested.