Several classes of drugs are used to treat hypertension.
Several classes of drugs are used to treat hypertension.
Diuretics help the kidneys get rid of excess salt and water. They are the mainstays of anti-hypertensive therapy and are often the first type of drug selected for most people with hypertension. They are also especially helpful for treating patients with heart failure, patients with isolated systolic hypertension, the elderly, and African-Americans. (African-Americans are more likely to be salt-sensitive, so they respond well to these drugs.) They also work well for patients with diabetes. Diuretics are often used in combination with other antihypertensive drugs.
There is strong evidence that diuretics work just as well as newer drugs in lowering blood pressure and are more effective in preventing heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
Diuretic Types and Brands. The three main types of diuretics include:
Problems with Diuretics.
Common Diuretic Side Effect Symptoms.
Beta blockers help slow heart rate and lower blood pressure. They are usually used in combination with other drugs such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics. Beta blockers are more likely to be used to treat hypertension in patients with angina, previous heart attack, arrhythmias with fast heart rates, or migraine headaches. With careful use, they can be beneficial for patients with heart failure.
Brands. Propranolol Propranolol (Inderal), acebutolol (Sectral), atenolol (Tenormin), betaxolol (Kerlone), carteolol (Cartrol), metoprolol (Lopressor), nadolol (Corgard), penbutolol (Levatol), pindolol (Visken), carvedilol (Coreg), timolol (Blocadren), and nebivolol (Bystolic). The drugs may differ in their effects and benefits.
Problems with Beta Blockers.
Common Side Effects.
Check with your doctor about any side effects. Do not stop taking these drugs on your own.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors widen blood vessels and decrease the workload of the heart. They treat high blood pressure and can also help protect the heart and kidneys.
Patients with heart failure or an enlarged left ventricle, previous heart attack, diabetes, or kidney disease are considered particularly good candidates for ACE inhibitors as part of treatment for high blood pressure.
Aspirin is recommended for reducing the risk of cardiac problems in patients with heart disease, and can safely be used in combination with ACE inhibitors, particularly at lower dosages of aspirin (75 - 81 mg).
Brands. ACE inhibitors include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), quinapril (Accupril), benazepril (Lotensin), ramipril (Altace), perindopril (Aceon), and lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril).
Common Side Effects of ACE Inhibitors.
Uncommon Side Effects of ACE Inhibitors.
Patients who have difficulty tolerating ACE inhibitor side effects are usually switched to an angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB).
ARBs, also known as angiotensin II receptor antagonists, are similar to ACE inhibitors in their ability to widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure. They may have fewer or less-severe side effects than ACE inhibitors, especially coughing, and are sometimes prescribed as an alternative to ACE inhibitors. In general they are prescribed to patients who cannot tolerate or did not respond to ACE inhibitors.
Brands. Losartan (Cozaar, Hyzaar, generic), olmesartan (Benicar) candesartan (Atacand), telmisartan (Micardis), eprosartan (Teveten), irbesartan (Avapro), and valsartan (Diovan). A combination medication containing candesartan and the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide (Diovan HCT, Atacand HCT) is also available. Exforge HCT is a triple-combination medication that combines in one pill valsartan along with the calcium-channel blocker amlodipine and the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide.
Calcium-channel blockers (CCBs), or calcium antagonists, help relax blood vessels. Along with diuretics, CCBs may work better than other drug classes for lowering blood pressure in African-Americans. Recent research indicates that newer types of drugs (CCBs, ACE inhibitors) may be a better treatment option for some patients than older drugs (especially beta blockers).
Brands. Diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor), amlodipine (Norvasc), felodipine (Plendil), isradipine (DynaCirc), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), nisoldipine (Sular), nicardipine (Cardene), nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), lercanidipine (Zanidip), lacidipine (Motens), and nitrendipine (Nitrepin). For patients who have both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Caduet combines in one pill amlodipine and the statin drug atorvastatin.
Alpha blockers such as doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress), and terazosin (Hytrin) help widen small blood vessels. They are generally not used as first-line drugs for high blood pressure, but are prescribed if other drugs do not work or as add-on medication.
Vasodilators help open blood vessels by relaxing muscles in the blood vessel walls. These drugs are usually used in combination with a diuretic or a beta blocker. They are rarely used by themselves. Vasodilators include hydralazine (Apresoline), clonidine (Catapres), and Minoxidil (Loniten). Some of these drugs should be used with caution or not at all in people who have angina or who have had a heart attack.
Aliskiren (Tekturna). Aliskiren is the first in a new class of antihypertensive drugs called direct renin inhibitors. It blocks renin, a kidney enzyme associated with high blood pressure. Aliskiren can be taken either alone or in combination with other blood pressure medications. It is also available in the 2-in-1 combination pills Tekturna HCT (aliskiren and the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide) and Valturna (aliskiren and the angiotensin-receptor blocker valsartan.) Aliskiren should not be used during pregnancy as it can cause injury or death to the fetus.