Blood Pressure Drugs

Your Care Explained > Medications : Blood Pressure Drugs

When diet, exercise, giving up smoking, and other lifestyle changes fail to reduce blood pressure to 130/80, your doctor may prescribe one of the scores of available antihypertensives, or blood pressure drugs.

Among African American women, blood pressure tends to be higher, begins at an earlier age and is often more serious. Studies have indicated that diuretics are the most effective in lowering blood pressure and have the fewest side effects in African American women.

Because different drugs work in different ways, interact differently with medications taken for other reasons and have different side effects, it may be necessary to try several drugs or combinations of the following drugs to reach the medication that best lowers your blood pressure with the fewest side effects.

Special Considerations for Women with Diabetes

It is especially important for women with diabetes to control their blood pressure. Studies have determined that maintaining blood pressure at 130/80 or below dramatically reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in people with diabetes. Two types of antihypertensives, diuretics and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, are usually the most effective in people with diabetes, and it may take a combination of two or more of those drugs to bring blood pressure down to target levels.

Racial Differences in Blood Pressure

Blood pressure not only tends to be higher among African American women, high blood pressure also begins at an earlier age and is often more serious. African American women are more likely to have a stroke, heart disease or kidney failure as a result of their high blood pressure than Caucasian women are.

How Antihypertensive Drugs Work

Blood pressure can be lowered either by reducing the volume of blood in the vessel, or by relaxing vessel walls to increase the diameter of blood vessels. There are a growing number and type of drugs that produce these effects. Because they work in a number of ways—from cutting off the production of certain hormones to blocking nerve signals to eliminating fluid from the body—their effectiveness, and the side effects they produce, vary extensively.

Types of Antihypertensives

Although all antihypertensive medications are aimed at the same goal—to bring blood pressure down—they go about it in different ways and affect each woman differently. If you’re taking an antihypertensive, your reaction to the drug is as important as the drug’s effect on your blood pressure. If your medication has unpleasant side effects, tell your doctor.

The following are the basic types, or classes, of blood pressure drugs.

Date Last Modified: January 21, 2011

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