Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are a type of drug your doctor may prescribe to help treat your heart disease. They lower certain chemicals that narrow your blood vessels, which allows blood to flow more easily through your body.
ARBs also lower certain chemicals that cause salt and fluid to build up in your body.
Examples of these medicines include:
- Atacand (candesartan)
- Avapro (irbesartan)
- Cozaar (losartan)
- Diovan (valsartan)
- Micardis (telmisartan)
Why Are ARBs Prescribed?
They have similar effects on heart disease as other types of drugs called ACE inhibitors, but they work a different way. Doctors prescribe them if you can't take ACE inhibitors. For instance, some people switch to ARBs if they get a cough while taking an ACE inhibitor.
How Should I Take ARBs?
You can take most of these drugs on an empty or full stomach. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for specific instructions.
Follow the label directions on how often to take it. The number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and how long you need to take the medication depends on the type of ARB, as well as your condition. It may take many weeks for you to feel the full effects of the drug.
Should I Avoid Certain Food or Medications?
ARBs can cause potassium to build up in your body, so don't use salt substitutes, which contain potassium.
Check with your doctor before you take aspirin or NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen or naproxen. These over-the-counter medicines may cause sodium and water to build up in your body and lessen the effect of an ARB. Check food labels to choose low-sodium and low-potassium foods. A dietitian can help you.
Digoxin and warfarin may interfere with the effects of Micardis. If you are taking these medications, tell your doctor before he prescribes an ARB.
Tell your doctor about all the medications you take, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and supplements.
What Are the Side Effects of ARBs?
They can include things like:
- Dizziness, light-headedness, or faintness when you get up. It may be strongest after the first dose, especially if you have been taking a diuretic (water pill).
- Muscle cramps or weakness, back or leg pain
- Irregular heartbeat or fast or slow heartbeat
- Sinusitis or upper respiratory infection
- Confusion. If you have this symptom, call your doctor right away.
- Cough, although this is more likely with an ACE inhibitor
- Diarrhea or vomiting. If it's severe, you may become dehydrated, which can lead to low blood pressure. Contact your doctor.
- Swelling of your neck, face, and tongue. It's a potential emergency. Call your doctor right away if it happens to you.