If you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it's likely that you and your doctor have discussed a plan to lower your blood pressure. For most people, medication is a major part of that plan. High blood pressure drugs are also called "anti-hypertensive" medicine.
Your doctor has many different high blood pressure drugs to choose from. These medications work in a variety of ways to lower blood pressure. Remember, though, that they do not cure high blood pressure. Rather, the goal of high blood pressure medicine is to control your blood pressure, bringing it back down to a normal level.
What are the different types of high blood pressure medicines? How do they control high blood pressure? Let's take a closer look at each group.
Diuretics for High Blood Pressure
This type of high blood pressure medicine helps your kidneys remove salt and water from your body. One of the results is that you have less blood volume circulating in your blood vessels. Less volume in the vessels leads to lower blood pressure.
Diuretics are often called "water pills." They are usually the first type of high blood pressure drug that your doctor will try. Here are some examples:
- Aldactone (spironolactone)
- Dyrenium (triamterene)
- Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, and Microzide (hydrochlorothiazide or HCTZ)
- Hygroton and Thalitone (chlorthalidone)
- Lasix (furosemide)
- Lozol (indapamide)
- Midamor (amiloride hydrochloride)
- Mykrox and Zaroxolyn (metolazone)
Your doctor may ask you to take one or even two diuretics at once. Here are some examples of combination diuretics:
Beta-Blockers and High Blood Pressure
This type of high blood pressure medicine makes the heartbeat slow down. Beta-blockers also keep your heart from pumping so hard. This makes blood go through your vessels with less force. The pressure inside your blood vessels goes down.
Here are some examples of beta-blockers:
- Blocadren (timolol)
- Cartrol (carteolol hydrochloride)
- Coreg (carvedilol)
- Corgard (nadolol)
- Inderal (propranolol)
- Kerlone (betaxolol)
- Levatol (penbutolol sulfate)
- Lopressor and Toprol XL (metoprolol)
- Sectral (acebutolol)
- Tenormin (atenolol)
- Visken (pindolol)
- Zebeta (bisoprolol fumarate)
- Normodyne and Trandate (labetolol)
How Alpha-Blockers Lower High Blood Pressure
This type of high blood pressure medicine reduces nerve impulses that tell your vessels to tighten. Your blood vessels remain relaxed, lowering your overall blood pressure.
Here are some examples of alpha-blockers:
High Blood Pressure and ACE Inhibitors
ACE inhibitors -- angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors -- are a type of high blood pressure medicine prevents your body from making angiotensin II. Angiotensin II is a hormone that makes blood vessels tighten. Because ACE inhibitors lower the amount of this hormone in your body, your blood vessels remain relaxed. Blood flows more easily through the vessels, lowering your overall blood pressure.
Here are examples of ACE inhibitors:
- Accupril (quinapril)
- Altace (ramipril)
- Capoten (captopril)
- Mavik (trandolapril)
- Lotensin (benazepril)
- Monopril (fosinopril)
- Prinivil and Zestril (lisinopril)
- Univasc (moexipril)
- Vasotec (enalapril)
ARBs and Your Blood Pressure
ARBs -- also called angiotensin II receptor blockers -- is a type of high blood pressure medicine prevents blood vessels from tightening. ARBs block the action of angiotensin II, a hormone that makes blood vessels tighten. As a result, blood flows more easily through the vessels. Your blood pressure becomes lower.
Here are examples of ARBs:
Calcium Channel Blockers and High Blood Pressure
Calcium channel blockers are sometimes called CCBs for short. This type of high blood pressure medicine is also called a calcium antagonist. Some CCBs keep blood vessels from tightening so much. They do this by preventing calcium from entering the muscle cells in your heart and blood vessels. Others slow your heart rate. As a result, blood can flow more easily through the vessels. This lowers your blood pressure.
Here are examples of CCBs:
- Adalat and Procardia (nifedipine)
- Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan, and others (verapamil)
- Cardene (nicardipine)
- Cardizem, Cartia, Dilacor, and Tiazac (diltiazem)
- DynaCirc (isradipine)
- Norvasc (amlodipine)
- Plendil (felodipine)
- Sular (nisoldipine)
Central Agonists Work on the Brain to Lower Blood Pressure
This type of high blood pressure medicine targets receptors of your brain to help lower blood pressure.
Here are some examples of central agonists:
- Aldomet (methyldopa)
- Catapres (clonidine)
- Tenex (guanfacine)
- Wytensin (guanabenz)
Peripheral-Acting Adrenergic Blockers
This type of high blood pressure medicine targets nerve impulses that tell your vessels to tighten to help lower blood pressure.
Here are some examples of peripheral-acting adrenergic blockers:
- Hylorel (guanadrel)
- Ismelin (guanethidine)
- Serpasil (reserpine)
This type of high blood pressure medicine relaxes the muscles in your blood vessel walls. The vessels widen and blood flows through more easily. Your blood pressure lowers.
Here are some examples of direct vasodilators:
- Apresoline (hydralazine)
- Loniten (minoxidil)
Direct Renin Inhibitors
Direct renin inhibitors, ACE inhibitors, and ARBs all target the same process that narrows blood vessels. But each type of medicine blocks a different part of the process.
Direct renin inhibitors block the enzyme renin from triggering a process that helps regulate blood pressure. As a result, blood vessels relax and widen, making it easier for blood to flow through the vessels, which lowers blood pressure.
Tekturna (aliskiren) is a direct renin inhibitor. Tekturna can be used alone or in combination with a diuretic or other medicines for high blood pressure.
Finding the Right Combination of High Blood Pressure Medicine
Which medicines may be best for you and your high blood pressure? That depends on factors such as these:
- The causes of your high blood pressure
- How high your blood pressure is
- How your body responds to different high blood pressure medicines
- Any other health problems you might have
It may take some trial-and-error testing to find the combination of high blood pressure medicine that works best for you. Many people need more than one type of high blood pressure medicine in order to get the best results. Some of these medicines are combined into one pill.