High Blood Pressure: What Medications Are Available?

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  • A Full Range of Options

    A Full Range of Options

    The bad news about high blood pressure is that it can be present without any noticeable symptoms, giving it the name “silent killer.” There’s plenty of good news, though. Once you and your doctor discover your numbers are too high as a result of routine screening or symptoms such as exhaustion, you have plenty of treatment options.

    A terrific spectrum of effective medications awaits to help you lower your blood pressure. You just have to work with your doctor to find the best one—or combination—for you.

    Click through the slideshow to learn about your options for treating hypertension.

  • Diuretics


    Drugs such as furosemide, chlorthalidone, and others help your body to expel salt and water as a means of controlling high blood pressure. Your doctor may prescribe diuretics, popularly known as “water pills,” in combination with other blood pressure drugs.

    You face a risk of losing potassium in your body as a result, so your doctor may recommend upping this mineral in your diet. You can also be prescribed potassium-sparing diuretics, such as triamterene.

    Side effects may include dizziness, frequent urination, thirst, and headache.

  • Beta Blockers

    Beta Blockers

    Beta blockers such as propranolol work by reducing the heart rate and the heart’s workload. You may also be prescribed metoprolol succinate, acebutolol or another beta blocker, or a combined beta blocker and diuretic, such as hydrochlorothiazide and bisoprolol. A suffix such as “-olol” is your clue that you are taking a beta blocker.

    Side effects may include fatigue, slow heartbeat, depression, insomnia, and cold hands and feet.

    Beta blockers may be risky for patients who have kidney or liver problems, or those that suffer from diabetes. If you have a slow heart rate, or are pregnant, your doctor may want to put you on something else.

  • ACE Inhibitors

    ACE Inhibitors

    ACE (angiotension­converting enzyme) inhibitors are drugs that work by inhibiting a chemical that causes the arteries to narrow, especially in the kidneys. If your drug name ends in “-pril,” such as trandolapril, enalapril or lisinopril, it belongs to the ACE inhibitor family.

    Common side effects may include cough, fatigue, and dizziness. If you are also taking diuretics, consult with your doctor about possible risks.

  • Calcium Channel Blockers

    Calcium Channel Blockers

    A good number of the calcium channel blockers end in the suffix “-ipine,” such as felodipine, nicardipine, nifedipine, and nimodipine. Others in this category include diltiazem and verapamil.

    These drugs work, as their name suggests, by blocking calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and arteries. This makes the heart’s contraction less forceful and relaxes the blood vessels.

    Drowsiness, headache, and an upset stomach are among common side effects. If you have liver or kidney problems, you may have special risks in taking this class of drugs.

  • Alpha Blockers and Vasodilators

    Alpha Blockers and Vasodilators

    These two classes of drugs work roughly in the same way. The alpha blockers include terazosin, prazasin, phenoxybenzamine, and doxazosin. These relax the tone of the vascular walls. They present a risk of causing fast heart rate and vision problems.

    Similarly, vasodilators cause the muscles of the artery wall to relax. These drugs, which include minoxidil and hydralazine hydrocholoride, especially affect the arterioles, the small branches that lead into the capillaries. Possible side effects may include growth of body hair, upset stomach, headache, and dizziness.

  • Combination Drugs

    Combination Drugs

    To make it easier for you to simply take a single pill, some of the more commonly prescribed hypertensive medications come in a single dose. The warnings of both individual drugs will still apply. Also, if you have both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, you may be prescribed Caduet, which is the brand-name version of amlodipine and atorvastatin.

  • Other Options

    Other Options

    You can also try angiotensin II receptor blockers, which work slightly differently than ACE inhibitors to block the effects of angiotensin. Generic names include candesartan, irbesarten, and telmisartan.

    If you are pregnant, your doctor may recommend methyldopa, an alpha-2 receptor agonist that decreases the workings of the adrenaline and has few adverse affects on the fetus.

    Central agonists work to prevent blood vessels from constricting. Generic names include guanabenz acetate and guanfacine hydrochloride. They may produce a greater drop in blood pressure when you are in a standing position.

  • … and the Inhibitors

    … and the Inhibitors

    If nothing else works, your doctor may prescribe the peripheral adrenergic inhibitors. These are known as guanadrel, guanethidine monosulfate, and reserpine.

    These medications work by blocking messages to the brain to constrict smooth muscles. All three drugs may cause diarrhea. Reseprine may cause heartburn, as well as nightmares, insomnia, or depression. If you take guanethidine, be cautious of standing too long in the hot sun, which may make you feel weak and dizzy.