There are millions of people all over the world suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension. Different medicines are used to treat this condition, and such medications are also called 'antihypertensives'. Although these medications effectively lower blood pressure, a hypertension patient has to make certain lifestyle changes such as change in diet (reduced sodium intake), weight control, and increase in physical activities to achieve better results. Following are some common antihypertensives:
Diuretics, also called water pills, act on the kidneys and help the body remove sodium and water through urination. They make blood vessels of the heart to hold less water, and thereby reduce the pressure on them. While undergoing treatment with diuretics, urination and thirst of the patient increases. The main side effect of diuretics is decrease in potassium level. Other side effects include dehydration, dry mouth, and weakness.
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors work on the hormones that are responsible for narrowing of the blood vessels. The hormone that constricts the blood vessels is angiotensin II, and ACE inhibitors reduce the production of this hormone. Thus, reduced amount of angiotensin II widens the blood vessels and reduces the pressure on them. ACE inhibitors also help draw out extra sodium and water through urination. Pregnant ladies should not use ACE inhibitors. The side effects of ACE inhibitors are dry cough, allergy, and swelling.
Beta receptors are found almost everywhere in our body and stimulation of them leads to increase in blood pressure. Beta blockers reduce the blood pressure by blocking these beta receptors. They lower the risk of heart failure, heart diseases, and stroke. As every other medication, beta blockers also have side effects that include dizziness, constipation, nausea, and headache. However, every person under beta blocker medication may not experience these side effects. Beta blockers must always be used on prescription by a physician.
Calcium channel blockers
Calcium channel blockers are also called CCBs or calcium antagonists. They lower the blood pressure by halting the entry of calcium into blood vessels, and thereby restricting the blood vessels from narrowing. There are very few side effects of calcium channel blockers, and they may be used solely or in combination with other hypertension medications.
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers
Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers, also called ARBs, reduce hypertension in a similar way as ACE inhibitors do. Usually these medications are recommended for those patients who cannot take ACE inhibitors due to their side effects, like, allergy and cough. Even ARBs have side effects like diarrhea, dizziness, etc. Pregnant women should not use ARBs.
Alpha blockers work in similar manner as beta blockers, but the receptors they block are different from beta blockers. They act on the muscles that are responsible for blood vessel constriction and keep the blood vessels open. This makes it easy for blood to flow through the blood vessels, and thus, reduces hypertension. Alpha blockers show significant side effects in initial period of medication like, dizziness and very high reduction in blood pressure. Nausea, weight gain, and weakness are some other side effects of alpha blockers.
The following table gives the generic and brand names of the medications that are used to treat hypertension:
|Medication||Generic Name||Brand Name|
All antihypertensives should always be used under a physician's guidance. The dosage differs from person to person, based on individual need and the stage of hypertension the person is experiencing. Though medications help treat the condition, a healthy balanced diet along with regular exercise should be followed for best results. Hypertension is a serious health problem that should not be neglected and proper timely treatment should be given to the patient.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.