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Medications to Treat High Blood Pressure

Understanding your medication options

Even if you make all recommended lifestyle changes to reduce your blood pressure, it may remain high (although not as high as if you didn't make any changes!). That's when medication is needed. There are currently seven primary classes of blood pressure lowering medications, as shown below. You may need to take more than one drug. Studies find that most people with hypertension need at least two medications to bring their blood pressure into line. If the idea of taking two more medications every day makes your throat tighten, no worries. Many antihypertensives come in combination pills: a diuretic combined with an ACE inhibitor or ARB, for instance. Studies find such single-pill combinations can significantly improve a person's willingness to continue taking their medication as directed.

Antihypertensive Medications

Class of MedicationCommon Drugs within Class (generic/brand)How They Work
Diuretics Chlorthalidone (Hygroton), hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide, Esidrix, Hydrodiuril) and indapamide (Lozol) Help your body get rid of excess sodium, which contributes to fluid retention and increases blood pressure
Beta blockers Atenolol (Tenormin), pindolol (Visken) and metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL) Slow the heart rate, thus reducing overall blood flow
Calcium channel blockers Verapamil (Isoptin, Verelan, Calan), diltiazem (Cardizem and others), nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia and others), nicardipine (Cardene), isradipine (DynaCirc), amlodipine (Norvasc), felodipine (Plendil) and nisoldipine (Sular) Prevent calcium from getting into muscle cells in the arteries, relaxing arteries
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors Captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, benazepril (Lotensin), fosinopril (Monopril) and ramipril (Altace) Interfere with the body's production of angiotensin II, a hormone that causes arteries to constrict
Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) Drugs in this class include candesartan (Atacand), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan) and telmisartan (Micardis) Also interfere with the body's production of angiotensin II, but with fewer side effects
Alpha blockers Doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress) and terazosin (Hytrin) Prevent the hormone norepinephrine from constricting small arteries and veins
Direct renin inhibitors Aliskiren (Tekturna) Prevent production of the kidney enzyme renin, which triggers production of angiotensin II
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