Dozens of different medications can help treat high blood pressure (hypertension). These medications are called antihypertensives and are divided into many different categories, each of which works differently.
High blood pressure can lead to many serious health problems, such as heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. Treating high blood pressure early is important in preventing these and other problems.
With so many medication options available, finding the best one for you may take some time and patience. A doctor will work with you to find the best treatment plan for you, which may include one or more medications.
The following chart summarizes the major classes of blood pressure medications, times they’re likely to be prescribed, and their side effects.
|Name||When they’re used||Side effects|
|Diuretics||These are often ||depends on the type, but may lead to low or high potassium or other electrolyte imbalances|
|Alpha-blockers||These may be used as an additional treatment option or in combination with other drugs.||headaches, nausea, dizziness, tremors, and more|
|Alpha-2 receptor agonists||These are primarily prescribed for other conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but may be used in unique circumstances. For example, methyldopa may be prescribed ||drowsiness or dizziness|
|Beta-blockers||These may be ||slow heart rate, cold extremities, insomnia, weight gain, and others|
|Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors||These may be used to treat heart failure or after a heart attack.||dry cough, rash, loss of taste, and rarely kidney damage|
|Angiotensin II receptor blockers||These may be used to treat heart failure or after a heart attack.||dizziness, headache, fatigue, and others|
|Calcium channel blockers||These may be used as an additional treatment option or in combination with other drugs.||depends on the type, but may lead to ankle swelling, flushing, constipation, slow heart rate, or heart palpitations|
|Vasodilators||These are often ||headache, eye swelling, joint pain, heart palpitations, weight gain|
|Aldosterone receptor antagonists||These are ||high potassium and impaired kidney function.|
|Direct renin inhibitors||Only one drug, aliskiren, is ||diarrhea, cough, rash, headaches, dizziness, and various metabolic imbalances.|
|Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors||These are ||diarrhea, heartburn, dizziness, weakness|
Diuretics are some of the most commonly used drugs for treating high blood pressure. They
There are three major types of diuretics:
- loop diuretics
Discover everything you need to know about diuretics, their types, and specific examples.
In certain situations, your body
Alpha-blockers work by blocking catecholamines from binding to alpha receptors. As a result, blood can flow through the blood vessels more freely, and your heart beats normally. This helps lower your blood pressure.
These medications perform the opposite function of alpha-blockers. A blocker (antagonist) is a drug that binds to the receptor, preventing it from triggering any responses.
An agonist, on the other hand, is a drug that
An example of an alpha-2 agonist is methyldopa. Examples of alpha-1 agonists are phenylephrine (Sudafed PE) and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
Another type of alpha receptor agonist is sometimes classified separately as central agonists.
Central agonist medications
Beta-blockers work by
Beta-blockers can further be
- Selective: These only block beta-1 receptors found in the heart muscle.
- Nonselective: These block both beta-1 and beta-2 receptors (found in the lungs and other smooth muscle).
In addition, some beta-blockers have a combined effect. Combined alpha- and beta-blockers block the binding of catecholamine hormones to both alpha- and beta-receptors.
Discover everything you need to know about beta-blockers, their types, and specific examples.
ACE inhibitors keep the body from making a hormone called angiotensin II, which causes blood vessels to narrow. These medications lower blood pressure by helping constricted blood vessels expand to let more blood through. ACE inhibitors
Nitrosamine, a chemical known to have the potential to cause cancer, was found to exist in the drug at levels greater than the acceptable daily intake (ADI) as determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This recall is specific only to a handful of lot numbers and doesn’t affect all Accupril tablets made by Pfizer. If you take Accupril tablets, talk with a pharmacist or doctor, and they’ll help you determine if your medication has been affected by the recall.
Discover everything you need to know about ACE inhibitors, their types, and specific examples.
This class of drugs also
Like ACE inhibitors, ARBs
Discover everything you need to know about ARBs, their types, and specific examples.
To move, all muscles need calcium to flow in and out of the muscle cells. Calcium channel blockers
- Non-dihydropyridine (non-DHP): These have a direct effect on the electrical signals to the heart muscle.
- Dihydropyridine (DHP): These have an effect on other (peripheral) blood vessels in the body.
Discover everything you need to know about calcium channel blockers, their types, and specific examples.
Vasodilators relax the muscles in the walls of blood vessels, especially in small arteries called arterioles. This widens the blood vessels and allows blood to flow through them more easily. As a result, blood pressure falls.
Discover everything you need to know about vasodilators, their types, and specific examples.
Aldosterone receptor antagonistswork by
Another type of blood pressure medication is called a direct renin inhibitor (DRI). DRIs block a chemical in your body called renin. This action helps widen your blood vessels, which lowers your blood pressure.
The only type of DRI that’s
Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors stop neurotransmitters in the brain from conveying a signal that causes the heart muscle to constrict. This helps lower your blood pressure.
There are times when you may need to take more than one type of blood pressure medication. Most commonly, this occurs when:
Can exercise help lower my high blood pressure?
Regular exercise strengthens the heart and makes it work more efficiently, leading to lower blood pressure. That said, speak with a doctor about making lifestyle changes to help manage your blood pressure. These
What is the most common blood pressure medication?
Thiazide or thiazide-like diuretics are often prescribed as the first-line treatment for high blood pressure.
Specifically, the most
What is the best blood pressure medication with the least side effects?
The best blood pressure medication with the fewest side effects will be different for every person, as there are many factors that
That said, ACE inhibitors, ARBs, thiazide diuretics, and DHP calcium channel blockers tend to be prescribed in many cases. Each hypertensive medication comes with some chance of side effects, but each may affect different people differently.
High blood pressure is a serious condition that requires treatment to prevent more severe health problems.
Don’t worry if you’re confused by all of your medication options. A doctor can tell you which drugs might work best for you. Together, you can put together a treatment plan to manage your blood pressure.