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All About Blood Pressure Medication

Your doctor may prescribe blood pressure lowering medicine if you have high blood pressure or hypertension. There are several kinds of medicine taken alone or in combination.

Types of medicine


Thiazide diuretics are often the first medicine your doctor will try to treat your high blood pressure. They help to lower blood pressure by eliminating excess fluid and salt in the body through the urine. Examples of commonly prescribed diuretics are hydrochlorothiazide, chlorothiazide, spironolactone, and others.

Beta blockers

These reduce the workload on the heart by blocking a hormone that increases the heart rate and blood pressure. This helps relax the blood vessels to improve blood flow. Examples of beta blockers are atenolol, metoprolol, nadolol, propranolol, and others.

ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

ACE inhibitors reduce the production of the enzyme angiotensin, which makes blood vessels constrict. ACE inhibitors allow blood vessels to expand so that blood can flow more easily and the heart can work more efficiently. Examples of commonly prescribed ACE inhibitors are benazepril, captopril, enalapril, lisinopril, and others.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers block the effects of angiotensin, preventing it from affecting the heart and blood vessels. Examples of angiotensin II receptor blockers are candesartan, losartan, telmisartan, valsartan, and others.

Pregnant women should not take ACE inhibitors or ARBs. These medicines can cause a risk of birth defects. If you have high blood pressure and plan to become pregnant or are pregnant, contact your healthcare provider right away.

Calcium channel blockers

These cause blood vessels to dilate or widen by reducing the calcium concentration in their cells. Some also slow the heart rate. Some calcium channel blockers are amlodipine, verapamil, nifedipine, and others. 

Alpha blockers

Alpha blockers block a certain hormone that makes the blood vessels constrict. This helps relax the blood vessels and improve blood flow. Examples of alpha blockers are doxazosin, prazosin, and terazosin. 

Guidelines for taking medicines

Blood pressure medicine may cause side effects such as headaches, nausea, weakness, insomnia, or sexual problems. Ask your doctor about changing your prescription if you have side effects.

To benefit from your medicine, follow these guidelines:

  • Take all your medicine as prescribed. Be sure you know whether it should be taken with food or on an empty stomach.

  • Take your pills at the same time each day. Consider putting a check mark on your calendar after you've taken them.

  • Consider using a daily or weekly pillbox that you can fill ahead of time. This way you will know whether you have taken your medicine.

  • Never skip a day or decide not to take your pills because you have side effects or don't feel your blood pressure is high. Remember: High blood pressure has no outward symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider about side effects and possible solutions.

  • If you miss a dose or doses, contact your healthcare provider about what to do.

  • Before purchasing any over-the-counter medicine, ask the pharmacist if it interacts with your blood pressure medicine. This is very important. Some over-the-counter products can have serious interactions with blood pressure medicines.

  • Refill your prescription before it runs out.

  • Take the proper amount of medicine each day. Don't adjust your dosage without your doctor's approval.

  • Don't stop taking your medicine because your blood pressure tests normal. It's testing normal because your medicine is working.

  • Don't skip appointments to have your blood pressure checked.

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Kang, Steven, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/27/2016
© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.