Anti-Hypertensive Medications and Side Effects.

Below is a list of common anti-hypertensive medications and some of their side effects. This is not meant to be a complete and comprehensive list, just general categories of medications with common side effects. Please consult with your pharmacist or doctor for any serious side effects or questions regarding your specific medications.

To understand the medications you should first understand that blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood being pumped by your heart and by the stretch-ability of your blood vessels. To decrease blood pressure you need to decrease the volume of blood being pumped and/or relax the blood vessels so the opening is larger there fore decreasing the resistance to blood flow

Diuretics: These medications reduce the symptoms of hypertension two ways. First, when taken at low doses some diuretics cause the blood vessels to relax. Secondly, diuretics cause sodium and water loss through urination, this reduces the volume of blood. Some of these drugs may lower your body's supply of an important mineral called potassium. You can prevent potassium loss by eating foods high in potassium, or if your doctor recommends it you can take a potassium pill along with the diuretic. In people with diabetes, diuretics may increase the blood glucose (sugar) level. Impotence may also occur in a small percentage of people.

Beta-blockers: These medications help reduce blood pressure by decreasing responses to impulses from the central nervous system. This medication both lowers your heart rate (decreasing the volume pumped) and prevents your blood vessels from constricting (getting smaller). Common side effects are insomnia which can lead to tiredness and/or depression, cold hands and feet, a slow heartbeat and symptoms of asthma. Impotence may be a problem for some men. Diabetics should monitor their blood glucose levels closely when beginning this medication.

Calcium channel blockers: These medications affect the movement of calcium into the cells which slows the heart rate and relaxes the blood vessels. Common side effects are palpitations (feeling your heart beating in your chest), swollen ankles, constipation, headache or dizziness. Side effects with individual Calcium channel blockers differs greatly.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: These medications block an enzyme in the body that is part of the substance that causes blood vessels to tighten, therefore causing them to relax. The exact mechanism of action is not known. Common side effects are skin rashes (these usually go away), loss of taste, and chronic dry, hacking coughs. In rare instances, kidney damage can occur.

ACE inhibitors should be used with caution with many other drugs

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