What are the most common blood pressure medications?The field of blood pressure medication is very complex. There are many classes of compounds, like diuretics, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotension receptor blockers (ARBs), calcium-channel blockers, and others. You can ask your physician to describe the effects and side effects of any medication prescribed. The good news is that you can do a great deal to lower blood pressure without drugs, resorting to drugs only for extreme cases or making the needed dose much lower. Again, these drugs have side effects, and if you are taking them, you cannot stop using them abruptly as abnormal surges in blood pressure could cause major trouble, if not death.
Some major side effects of these drugs are as follows:• all can make the blood pressure fall too low and cause symptoms of faintness and weakness.
• diuretics: may cause weakness due to loss of too much of the body’s potassium; can raise uric acid, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and cause an attack of gout in those who are susceptible to gout
•beta-blockers: most common side effect is weakness and fatigue; can lead to impotence in men, aggravate wheezing in people with asthma, and slightly raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
•ACE inhibitors: most common side effect is cough; a relatively uncommon side effect is an allergic skin reaction.
• angiotension receptor blockers: these are fairly new, can replace ACE inhibitors or any of the other medications, and are relatively free of side effects.
•calcium-channel blockers: ankle swelling. Reported benefits are less than those of other blood pressure medications, so use only if others are poorly tolerated.
Some of these drugs’ actions are easy to understand. A diuretic removes sodium (the part of salt, sodium chloride, that can raise blood pressure), and this decreases the fluid in the bloodstream, thereby decreasing the amount of blood the heart must pump. Beta-blockers decrease the impact of circulating adrenaline by blocking its action on the nerves that constrict the small blood vessels, thus making blood flow more easily through these blood vessels.
While medication for blood pressure is sometimes needed, here again, lifestyle changes can play a key role.