There are several types of medicine used to treat high blood pressure. Your doctor will decide which type of medicine is right for you.

Alpha blockers help relax your blood vessels by reducing nerve impulses. This allows your blood to pass through more easily.

Alpha-beta blockers not only reduce nerve impulses, but also make the heart beat slower so the blood passes through the vessels with less force. They combine the effects of beta blockers and alpha blockers.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (also called ACE inhibitors) keep your body from making angiotensin II, a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow. This relaxes your blood vessels.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (also called ARBs) relax your blood vessels by blocking the effects of angiotensin II, a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow.

Beta blockers make the heart beat slower so that blood passes through your blood vessels with less force.

Calcium channel blockers (also called CCBs) help keep your blood vessels from constricting (becoming narrow) by blocking calcium from entering your cells.

Centrally acting drugs affect your brain and central nervous system to reduce the nerve impulses that can increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to narrow.

Direct vasodilators relax the muscles in the blood vessel walls. This causes the blood vessels to widen.

Diuretics (water pills) help your body get rid of extra sodium (salt) and water so your blood vessels don’t have to hold so much fluid.

Renin inhibitors slow down your body’s production of renin, the enzyme that starts the many chemical reactions that raise your blood pressure.

All medicines can have side effects. Some possible side effects of high blood pressure medicines include the following:

  • Chest pain, heart palpitations (the feeling that your heart is racing) or arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Cough, fever, congestion, upper respiratory tract infection, or “flu-like” symptoms
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness or increased anxiety
  • Problems with erections and sexual function
  • Skin rash
  • Tiredness, weakness, drowsiness or lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Unintended weight loss or gain
  • Vomiting

Tell your doctor as soon as possible if your side effects become severe or bothersome.

If you use 2 or more drugs at the same time, the way your body processes each drug can change. When this happens, the risk of side effects from each drug increases and each drug may not work the way it should. This is called a “drug-drug interaction.” Vitamins and herbal supplements can also affect the way your body processes medicine.

Certain foods or drinks can also prevent your medicine from working the way it should or make side effects worse. This is called a “drug-food interaction.” For example, people taking certain CCBs may need to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice.

Be certain that your doctor knows all of the over-the-counter and prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements you are taking.

Also, ask your doctor whether you need to avoid any foods or drinks while using your blood pressure medicine.

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