The Most Popular Drugs for High Blood Pressure

Many prescription drugs are available to reduce blood pressure. While these drugs do not cure hypertension, they control it until the underlying health problem is cured or until lifestyle modifications start displaying their beneficial effects. Your doctor will decide which medication (or combination of medications) is best after carefully considering your risks for cardiovascular and kidney disease.

Diuretics

Presence of high amounts of sodium in the body leads to high blood pressure due to water retention. Diuretics remove the extra water (and sodium) from the body to decrease blood pressure. According to the guidelines by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, published in Hypertension in 2003, thiazide-type diuretics should be used as initial therapy in most patients. The most popular diuretics of this type include Hydrochlorothiazide, Chlorthalidone, Indapamide and Metolazone.

Calcium Blockers

Calcium blockers block the calcium channels of smooth muscle cells and reduce their contraction. This results in the dilation of blood vessels and a subsequent drop in blood pressure. Popular calcium blockers include Amlodipine, Nifedipine, Nicardipine, Diltiazem and Verapamil.

Beta Blockers

This class of drugs acts on the sympathetic nervous system and decreases the rate at which the heart pumps, along with its contractility. These actions on the heart lead to a decline in blood pressure. Atenolol, Metoprolol, Propranolol, Betaxolol and Bisoprolol are the popular beta blockers.

ACE Inhibitors and ARBs

Angiotensin II is a hormone that causes your blood vessels to constrict. By inhibiting the action of this hormone, both ACE (Angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptior blockers) cause your blood vessels to dilate. This results to lower levels of blood pressure. Examples of ACE inhibitors are Benazepril, Captopril, Enalapril, Ramipril and Fosinopril. Some popular ARBs include Losartan, Candesartan, Eprosartan and Irbesartan. Your doctor will more likely prescribe a drug from this group if you are suffering from chronic kidney disease.

Precautions

All blood pressure drugs have side effects. Moreover, casually combining two or more antihypertensive drugs may adversely affect your health. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in December 2001 raised concerns about the safety of combining an ACE inhibitor with a beta blocker. Therefore, it is important that you thoroughly discuss your medical history with your doctor before starting these medications.

About this Author

Mike Goel is a freelance writer who specializes in health, pharmaceutical science, and environment. He trained as a scientist at prestigious East Coast schools, where most of his research experiences focused on the interface of biomedicine and engineering. He has contributed articles to eHow and LIVESTRONG.