AFib Treatments: ACE Inhibitors and ARBs

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on July 08, 2022
3 min read

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common heart rhythm disorder. With AFib, the beating of the upper chambers of your heart (the atria) becomes irregular, and blood has a harder time reaching your ventricles, which are the lower chambers of your heart.

High blood pressure accounts for about 1 in 5 cases of AFib. High blood pressure can have an effect on the structure and function of the heart.

Your cardiologist has several ways of treating your AFib. They include:

  • Drugs to help control your heart’s rhythm and rate
  • Blood thinners to prevent blood clots from forming and reduce stroke risk
  • Surgery
  • Medicine and changes in lifestyle to manage AFib risk factors

Two medications, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, known as ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), can have protective effects against AFib.

Both drugs reduce new cases of AFib in people with high blood pressure. ARBs do a better job preventing AFib for people who have had a stroke or a TIA (transient ischemic attack), also known as a “mini stroke.”

Some types of AFib are more serious and require more aggressive treatment than others.

  • Occasional: Symptoms such as fast heartbeat, dizziness, and shortness of breath last for a few minutes or hours but come and go.
  • Persistent: Medications are needed to restore and maintain a normal heart rhythm.
  • Long-standing persistent: Symptoms are continuous and last longer than a year.
  • Permanent: With permanent AFib, medications are needed to control your heart rate and prevent blood clots.

Whether your AFib is occasional or permanent, your doctor may recommend  an ACE inhibitor to lower your blood pressure. These drugs help relax your veins and arteries. ACE inhibitors keep your body from producing angiotensin II, a hormone that can narrow your blood vessels and cause your heart to work harder.

ACE inhibitors can prevent the development or reduce the recurrence of AFib. They also treat  other heart problems, including arterial hypertension, heart failure, and coronary artery disease.

Your cardiologist has many ACE inhibitors to choose from. The drugs you take will depend on your overall health and other conditions you may have besides AFib. Those medications include:

  • Benazepril (Lotensin)
  • Captopril
  • Enalapril (Vasotec)
  • Fosinopril
  • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
  • Moexipril
  • Perindopril
  • Quinapril (Accupril)
  • Ramipril (Altace)
  • Trandolapril

Side effects of ACE inhibitors

You may have some side effects from taking ACE inhibitors. They include:

  • Dry cough
  • Increased potassium levels in the blood
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness from low blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Loss of taste

Another effective drug for your AFib may be an ARB, or angiotensin receptor blocker. The hormone angiotensin II can increase your blood pressure by constricting your blood vessels. It can also cause your body to retain salt and water, which also increases your blood pressure.

Some common ARB medications include:

  • Candesartan
  • Irbesartan
  • Losartan
  • Valsartan

Side effects of ARBs

Some side effects of ARBs include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

You should also avoid ARBs if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

High blood pressure is the most common risk factor for AFib. Lowering your blood pressure with medications including ACE inhibitors and ARBs may reduce the risks of AFib.

Most people who take ACE inhibitors and ARBs are likely to be on these medications for a long time. Even if your blood pressure is under control, high blood pressure will return if you stop taking these medications.

People with AFib have a much higher risk of having a stroke. A stroke happens when the blood going to your brain is blocked by a blood clot or a buildup of fatty deposits (plaque) in blood vessels.

A healthier lifestyle can also lower your chance of developing atrial fibrillation. Some tips that are good for your heart health include:

  • A nutritious diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine
  • Manage stress