High Blood Pressure Treatment — Medications
If you've been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor may want to prescribe medication to bring your blood pressure to a more manageable level. It's important to know what each of these medications does to understand your treatment better.
Prescription High Blood Pressure Medications
These medications require a prescription which must then be filled by a pharmacy. Your doctor will then monitor your blood pressure and keep an eye on any potential side effects before renewing your prescription.
Beta- and Alpha- Blockers
Beta-blockers block the attachment of epinephrine (AKA adrenaline) at the cellular level of blood vessels and heart muscle. This slows the heart rate and blood pressure decreases. Metoprolol is one of the most commonly prescribed beta-blockers.
Alpha-blockers instead block the attachment of norepinephrine at blood vessel receptors, relaxing the walls of your arteries and improving blood flow. They are prescribed less often than beta-blockers because they aren't as effective at reducing your risk of dangerous complications like stroke and heart attack.
In some cases, doctors will prescribe both alpha- and beta-blockers or a single pill that combines the two effects. However, these are typically only used if hypertension gets bad enough to be life-threatening. They're rarely used as a routine management strategy.
Diuretics increase urine production, which is a natural way for your body to rid itself of excess sodium and water. They are naturally present in alcohol, caffeine, and certain teas, especially hibiscus tea.
Keep in mind that diuretics can put more strain on your kidneys, which can increase your risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Avoid them if kidney disease runs in your family or if you have other high-risk factors, especially since hypertension can be a precursor to kidney troubles.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors restrict the production of angiotensin II, an enzyme that narrows your blood vessels.
Decreasing angiotensin II levels can lead to normal blood pressure. ACE inhibitors are offered as prescription medications, but they are a naturally occurring effect of certain foods like dairy products and eggs.
Common ACE inhibitor medications include Lisinopril, Enalapril, Captopril, Benazepril and Univasc.
Beta-blockers, diuretics, and ACE inhibitors can all cause issues with potassium levels. It's important to have your potassium monitored when taking these medications.
Vasodilator drugs dilate your blood vessels, which means they widen your veins and arteries. Blood is able to flow through them more freely, which reduces your blood pressure.
Vasodilators typically have very few side effects and those that do occur are usually mild. However, if side effects like nausea or light-headededness persist, you may need a dosage adjustment or an alternative medication.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Calcium can travel across the cell membrane of heart cells and blood vessel cells and cause smooth muscle contraction. It travels across the cells through channels. More calcium traveling across these channels results in stronger smooth muscle contractions in the blood vessel walls causing the vessels to narrow.
Calcium channel blockers prevent the passage of calcium into these muscle cells. The contractions are less forceful and the arteries don't get as narrow. They lower your blood pressure by widening blood vessels and decreasing your heart rate.
Side effects include headaches, dizziness, swelling in your ankles, and palpitations.
Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors
Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors aren't used very often as a high blood pressure treatment, but your doctor may prescribe them if other medications don't work well.
These drugs don't directly affect your blood vessels. Instead they affect certain neurotransmitters in your brain responsible for telling the smooth muscles in your blood vessels to constrict. Without the constriction signal, vessels remain open wide enough for blood cells to easily pass through.
Since peripheral adrenergic inhibitors interact with your neurotransmitters, some have been linked to conditions such as depression or insomnia. You can also experience lightheadedness and fainting from low blood pressure if the medications' effects are stronger than anticipated.
Over-the-Counter Medications for High Blood Pressure Treatment
Many people ask if there are any over-the-counter medications for high blood pressure.
There are currently no FDA-approved medications that reduce blood pressure available without a prescription, even though some supplements may promise to do so. Before taking any supplement, speak to your doctor about potential drug interactions and general safety.
Medication isn't the only available high blood pressure treatment. You can also use natural methods like changing your diet and exercising more to reinforce the positive effects of medications.
See your doctor to discuss all of your treatment options.