Many blood pressure medications, known as antihypertensives, are available by prescription to lower high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension). There are a variety of classes of high blood pressure medications and they include a number of different drugs. In the widget below, you will find an overview of the classes of blood pressure medication.
In the tabs below, you’ll find summaries of some of the major types of commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications. If your prescription medication isn’t on this list, remember that your healthcare provider and pharmacist are your best sources of information. There are a lot of medication brands and names out there, this list is NOT meant as a recommendation. It's important to discuss all of the drugs you take with your doctor and understand what they are supposed to help. NEVER stop taking a medication and NEVER change your dose or frequency without first consulting your doctor.
Diuretics help the body get rid of excess sodium (salt) and water and help control blood pressure. They are often used in combination with additional prescription therapies.
Some noted possible side effects from diuretics:
Some of these drugs may decrease your body's supply of the mineral potassium. Symptoms such as weakness, leg cramps or being tired may result. Eating foods containing potassium may help prevent significant potassium loss. If your doctor recommends it, you could prevent potassium loss by taking a liquid or tablet that has potassium along with the diuretic. Diuretics such as amiloride (Midamar)*, spironolactone (Aldactone)* or triamterene (Dyrenium)* are called "potassium sparing" agents. They don't cause the body to lose potassium. They might be prescribed alone, but are usually used with another diuretic.
Beta-blockers reduce the heart rate, the heart's workload and the heart's output of blood, which lowers blood pressure.
Angiotensin is a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow, especially in the kidneys but also throughout the body. ACE stands for Angiotensin-converting enzyme. ACE inhibitors help the body produce less angiotensin, which helps the blood vessels relax and open up, which, in turn, lowers blood pressure.
These drugs block the effects of angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow. Angiotensin needs a receptor- like a chemical "slot" to fit into or bind with- in order to constrict the blood vessel. ARBs block the receptors so the angiotensin fails to constrict the blood vessel. This means blood vessels stay open and blood pressure is reduced.
This drug prevents calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and arteries. When calcium enters these cells, it causes a stronger and harder contraction, so by decreasing the calcium, the hearts' contraction is not as forceful. Calcium channel blockers relax and open up narrowed blood vessels, reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure.
These drugs reduce the arteries' resistance, relaxing the muscle tone of the vascular walls.
These drugs reduce blood pressure by decreasing the activity of the sympathetic (adrenaline-producing) portion of the involuntary nervous system. Methyldopa is considered a first line antihypertensive during pregnancy because adverse effects are infrequent for the pregnant woman or the developing fetus.
Combined alpha and beta-blockers are used as an IV drip for those patients experiencing a hypertensive crisis. They may be prescribed for outpatient high blood pressure use if the patient is at risk for heart failure.
Central agonists also help decrease the blood vessels' ability to tense up or contract. The central agonists follow a different nerve pathway than the alpha and beta-blockers, but accomplish the same goal of blood pressure reduction.
Generic nameCommon brand namesalpha methyldopaAldomet*clonidine hydrochlorideCatapres*guanabenz acetateWytensin*guanfacine hydrochlorideTenex*
These medications reduce blood pressure by blocking neurotransmitters in the brain. This blocks the smooth muscles from getting the "message" to constrict. These drugs are rarely used unless other medications don't help.
Some noted possible side effects of peripheral adrenergic inhibitors:
Blood vessel dilators, or vasodilators, can cause the muscle in the walls of the blood vessels (especially the arterioles) to relax, allowing the vessel to dilate (widen). This allows blood to flow through better.
Some noted possible side effects of vasodilators: