Why We Need Blood Pressure Medication?
Blood pressure medication is usually suggested after lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular exercise and non-smoking fail to produce a tangible change in one’s blood pressure condition. These medications are prescribed in conjunction with lifestyle changes and the effect is again monitored.
Typically, you will require some sort of blood pressure medication when your high blood pressure figures have become persistent and have started to cause some form of organ damage e.g. an enlarged heart or the early stages of eye, kidney or artery damage.
Sometimes, if you have an existing medical conditions such as diabetes, lung or kidney disease, coronary artery disease or high cholesterol (that could lead to heart disease), your doctor may opt to prescribe you a blood pressure medication to tackle your hypertension before it causes complications.
You may also opt for medication if you think that you will not be successful at changing your lifestyle completely. However, keep in mind that you will probably require multiple medications to successfully get your blood pressure in check.
Types of Blood Pressure Medications
- ACE inhibitors
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme, or ACE for short, inhibitors work by blocking the enzyme that is necessary for the formation of a substance which causes blood vessels in the body to become narrow. This leads to their relaxation and dilation, easing the flow of blood through them thus lowering your high blood pressure. Moreover, these medications cause an increased release of sodium and water into your urine – this also helps to lower your blood pressure. Examples include benazepril, captopril, enalapril etc.
- Angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB)
This type of medication works by stopping the activity of a blood vessel narrowing hormone. This causes the vessels in question to become wide and relaxed which eases the flow of blow through them hence reducing your blood pressure. They also have an effect similar to ACE inhibitors on your urine which further helps to reduce blood pressure. Examples include candesartan, eprosartan, irbesartan etc.
Beta-blockers have a three pronged effect to lower your blood pressure. They cause your heart rate to go down. They reduce the volume of blood pumped out by your blood. They lower the force exerted by your heartbeat. All three effects combine to bring down your high blood pressure. They are very effective for patients of heart failure or angina, or those who have suffered from a prior heart attack. Examples include betaxolol, atenolol, acebutolol etc.
- Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs)
Calcium channel blockers function by relaxing and widening your blood vessels, making blood flow through them easier, and hence lowering your elevated blood pressure levels. There are two types of CCBs – diltiazem and verapamil – that, in addition to the function described above, also bring down your heart rate and impact your heart’s pumping action, to control your blood pressure. Examples include amlodipine, isradipine, felodipine etc.
Diuretic trigger kidneys to get rid of water and sodium present in the body, which causes the relaxation of blood vessel walls that in turn leads to reduced blood pressure. They are often used alongside with other hypertension medications, since they improve the effect of the other medication and in some cases, deal with the retention of fluids that these other medicines may cause. There are a number of subcategories of diuretics that include thiazide diuretics e.g. chlorthalidone, loop diuretics e.g. bumetanide, potassium-sparing diuretics e.g. amiloride and quinazoline diuretics e.g. metolazone.
Alpha blockers, also known as alpha-adrenergic antagonists, work by relaxing specific muscles and helping the smaller blood vessels to stay open. They stop the effect of the norepinephrine hormone which tightens the muscles lining the walls of small veins and arteries which leads to the aforementioned muscle relaxation that in turn causes blood flow to improve and hypertension to go down. Examples include doxazosin and prazosin.
- Alpha-Beta Blockers
They function in the exact same way as alpha-blockers except that they also incorporate the function of beta-blockers which block catecholamines in the blood vessels, brain and heart which reduces your heart rate and the force each heartbeat exerts, besides causing your blood vessels to relax. Thus they have an enhanced hypertension countering effect. Examples include carvedilol, labetalol HCl etc.
This antihypertensive, classified as an alpha 2 agonist and imidazoline agonist, works by altering some nerve impulses in the brain that lead to the relaxation of blood vessels which eases the flow of blood through them thus leading to lowered blood pressure levels. The primary function of this medication is to keep blood pressure in check, not to cure hypertension. Therefore it should be used precisely as instructed by your physician to control your blood pressure once it has come down.
This over-the-counter drug is famous for its ability to stopper hair loss in men, but it is also an effective vasodilator. It causes the relaxation of blood vessels by stimulating an enzyme that encourages the process. These relaxed blood vessels ease the flow of blood which brings down hypertension.
All medications detailed above are effective at bringing down your blood pressure and thus lowering the chance of heart disease. However, you will need to cooperate with your doctor to find the right medication(s) for you i.e. those that are effective on your condition with the smallest number of side effects. It is essential that, once prescribed, you follow the schedule to the hilt. Be prepared to follow up with frequent blood tests by your doctor which will enable them to assess the effectiveness of the medication for you.