Hypertension Treatments Medication Options

Hypertension medication comes in many forms, and may be prescribed singularly or in combination with other high blood pressure medications. The cause, severity and complications of high blood pressure determine which hypertension treatment is most appropriate. For some people, it may be necessary to try different hypertension medications to discover the most effective dosage and treatment.

Common Medication for Hypertension

Common hypertension medications include medications that affect the formation or activity of the pharmaceutical chemicals angiotensin, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics.

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors reduce production of an enzyme that converts the chemical angiotensin from an inactive to an active form. Active angiotensin causes blood vessels to constrict, raising blood pressure. People with coronary heart disease, heart failure or kidney failure often benefit from ACE inhibitors.
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers provide hypertension treatment by blocking the angiotensin-activating enzyme’s action, not its production. Angiotensin II receptor blockers and ACE inhibitors offer similar hypertension treatment results.
  • Beta blockers lower blood pressure by reducing the heart’s workload and expanding blood vessels. Beta blocker medication reduces the strength and rate of the heartbeat and is often the hypertension treatment of choice for people with angina, fast heartbeats, or chronic anxiety. They are also often prescribed for those who have recently had heart attacks.
  • Calcium channel blockers are types of hypertension medication that reduce the amount of calcium available to the heart muscle and arteries. The result is a less forceful heart beat and relaxed arterial walls.

    People whose hypertension treatment includes calcium channel blockers should avoid grapefruit. Grapefruit interacts with calcium-blocking hypertension medications, causing high blood levels of the medication and increasing the risk of side effects.

  • Thiazide diuretics, or “water pills,” are one of the oldest medicinal hypertension treatments. Diuretics work by stimulating the kidneys’ ability to eliminate water and sodium from the bloodstream. Reducing water and sodium decreases blood volume, resulting in less pressure on the blood vessel walls.

Although diuretics can be used as a standalone hypertension treatment, they are more often used in low doses in combination with other hypertension medications to reduce diuretic side effects and maximize treatment outcomes.

Additional Hypertension Medications

While the hypertension medications listed above are the most common prescription hypertension treatments, there are other options for people who don’t respond well to those medications. Additional hypertension medication options include:

  • Alpha blockers
  • Alpha-beta blockers
  • Central-acting agents
  • Renin inhibitors
  • Vasodilators.

Combination Hypertension Treatment

Often, combinations of hypertension medication reduce blood pressure more effectively than a single drug. Combination hypertension treatment uses smaller doses of each medication to improve blood pressure while minimizing side effects.

Some hypertension medication works well for one group, but not for another. Caucasians, for instance, respond better to single-drug treatment with ACE inhibitors than people of African descent, who may require stronger doses or combination hypertension treatment.

Hypertension medication taken during pregnancy can affect the fetus, but may be necessary in some cases of pre-existing or pregnancy induced hypertension. The benefits of hypertension medication during pregnancy must always be balanced against any risk to the fetus. Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers are generally considered safe hypertension medications for women during pregnancy, while ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers and diuretics are not recommended due to fetal complications.

Resources

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). High blood pressure (hypertension): Treatments and drugs. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/DS00100/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.

MedicineNet.com. (n.d.). High blood pressure treatment. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from the MedicineNet.com Web site: http://www.medicinenet.com/high_blood_pressure_treatment/article.htm.

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Staff. (n.d.). Types of blood pressure medications. Retrieved February 2, 2010, from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Web site: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/treat/bpd_type.htm.