ACE inhibitors are a vasodilator; that means they dilate (or widen) the blood vessels to improve blood flow, which helps to decrease the amount of work the heart has to do. They also block some of the harmful substances in the blood (angiotensin) that are produced as a result of heart failure. Angiotensin is one of the most powerful vasoconstrictors (they narrow the blood vessels) in the body.
ACE inhibitors are critical in the treatment of heart failure when systolic dysfunction is present and may also be prescribed for the treatment of diastolic dysfunction.
The symptoms of heart failure can be related to the pooling of fluid in the body or can be secondary to decreased blood flow to the body. Some people with heart failure don't experience symptoms, but here are some of the more common signs:
Shortness of breath with exercise or difficulty breathing at rest or when lying down
Swollen legs, ankles, or abdomen
Dry, hacking cough, or wheezing
Other symptoms may include:
Fatigue, palpitations, or pain during normal activities
ACE inhibitors are usually taken on an empty stomach one hour before meals. Follow the label directions on how often to take your medication. The number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and how long you need to take the drug will depend on the type of ACE inhibitor prescribed, as well as your condition.
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness upon rising: This side effect may be strongest after the first dose, especially if you have been taking a diuretic (water pill). Get up more slowly. Contact your doctor if these symptoms persist or are severe.
Salty or metallic taste and a decreased ability to taste: This effect usually goes away as you continue taking the medication.
Cough: If this symptom persists or is severe, contact your doctor. Otherwise, ask your doctor what type of cough medicine you may use to control the cough.
Swelling of your neck, face, and tongue: This is a medical emergency. Seek emergency medical treatment immediately: Call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency department.
If you become sick with severe vomiting or diarrhea, you may become dehydrated, which can lead to low blood pressure. Contact your doctor. Also contact your doctor if you have any other symptoms that cause concern.