Overview of HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE drugs!

If diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes are not enough to reverse high blood pressure in a patient afficted with it, doctors have a variety of drugs in their arsenals. Following is an overview of some of these drugs. 

DIURETICS – One of the most common treatments for high blood pressure is a prescription diuretic. These drugs remove fuid and salt from the body, which allows the blood to fow more easily through the blood vessels. Generic names for available diuretics include: chlorthalidone, chlorothiazide, furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, indapamide, and metolazone.

However, the main problem with diuretics is that these cannot distinguish between fushing out things that are good for the body and things that are bad. So, in addition to getting rid of excess water and salt, they can also rid your body of nutrients that might be helpful in lowering your blood pressure. Potassium, and magnesium (a mineral) are often depleted from the “system” when taking diuretics—and we will talk about this side effect in more detail in the next chapter.

For now, it is enough to know that diuretics tend to remove both the “bad” and the “good” from the body, and that these pharmaceuticals can cause weakness, dizziness, irregular heartbeat—and even diabetes—among other problems. 

*Potassium, and magnesium (a mineral) are ofen depleted from the ‘system’ when taking diuretcs.

BETA BLOCKERS – Another major category of blood pressure medication is known as beta blockers.

These drugs reduce the nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels, making the heart beat more slowly and with less force. This causes the blood pressure to drop because the blood is putting less force on the vessels.

If you have been taking beta blockers and then stop using them, you may have increased asthma symptoms, lowered good cholesterol levels or an increased heart rate. Beta blockers are a good example of why, if you rely on pharmaceutical management for your high blood pressure, you may end up having to take these drugs for the rest of your life. The rebound when you go off the drugs can be dramatic, and should only occur under the supervision of a physician. 

Other side effects of beta blockers can include insomnia, cold hands and feet, tiredness and depression. People who have diabetes need to be monitored very carefully if they are taking insulin along with beta blockers.

ACE INHIBITORS – Angiotensin Converting Enzyme inhibitors, also known as ACE inhibitors, prevent the formation of a chemical, angiotensin II, which causes the blood vessels to narrow. Taking an ACE inhibitor can help the blood vessels relax, allowing blood to flow more easily.

Side effects of ACE inhibitors can include skin rashes, loss of your sense of taste, or a chronic, dry cough. In rare instances kidney damage can occur. 

Other similar drugs include the angiotensin II receptor blockers, which shield blood vessels from angiotensin, allowing the blood vessels to widen, and calcium channel blockers, which keep calcium from moving into the muscle cells of the blood vessels and heart, allowing vessels to relax and blood pressure to go down. 

Both of these types of drugs may cause dizziness, while the calcium channel blockers can also lead to heart palpitations, headaches, swollen ankles, constipation and varied other problems depending on the particular type of ACE inhibitor you are taking.

ALPHA BLOCKERS – Alpha blockers reduce nerve impulses to the blood vessels. Without the impulses, the muscles cannot contract. This relaxes the blood vessels, allowing blood to fow more easily and the blood pressure to be reduced. 

When you frst take an alpha blocker, you may have a huge dip in blood pressure that causes dizziness and can make you feel faint. After continued use of the drug, side effects may include headaches, nausea, weakness, pounding heart, weight gain and increase of “bad” cholesterol. Some studies have even shown that alpha blockers can cause heart failure when used longterm—exactly one of the conditions you are trying to prevent by treating your high blood pressure! 

Sometimes alpha and beta blockers are combined to make for a safer treatment plan, but all of the same side effects and potential problems are still there

VASODILATORS – Vasodilators, also known as blood vessel dilators, open the blood vessels by relaxing the muscle in the vessel walls, allowing blood pressure to go down. These drugs are usually used with other blood pressure reducing drugs for best results. 

These drugs can cause headaches, swelling around the eyes, heart palpitations or aches and pains in the joints. These symptoms usually go away after a couple of weeks. 

One vasodilator you may have heard of is Minoxidil, which is also marketed as a hair growth stimulator. It should not be a surprise, then, that a side effect of taking it for high blood pressure is hair growth. Another is extreme weight gain. It is only used in very severe cases of high blood pressure that do not respond to other treatments.

A WARNING ABOUT STOPPING DRUGS FOR HYPERTENSION If your doctor has prescribed a blood-pressure lowering drug or combination of drugs for you and you are currently taking them, it is important that you do not stop all at once or without consulting your doctor. As previously mentioned, it is possible to cause health problems by coming off the drugs, and you certainly do not want to make your problems worse by playing doctor yourself. 

Talk to your doctor about your preference to manage your blood pressure with lifestyle changes and alternative “natural” treatments, and the two of you can develop a plan for getting you off the blood pressure drugs—if your high blood pressure is not too severe—without further harming your health.

If you are not already on one or more of these drugs, the next chapter, Natural Treatments for High Blood Pressure, offers more natural ways to control your blood pressure. Armed with the information in that chapter, you can work—in coordination with your health care provider—to develop a plan to manage your high blood pressure, using the least medication necessary to achieve the goal.

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