Have you ever wondered what's going on behind the scenes with your blood pressure medication? Here's how blood pressure medications work.
Blood pressure medications are grouped into several classes. Each class works in a different way to lower blood pressure. The main classes are:
diuretics (e.g., hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide): This class of medications works by increasing the amount of urine your body produces. This causes the body to lose salt and water, which decreases the volume of the blood, leading to lower blood pressure.
ACE inhibitors (e.g., enalapril, lisinopril, ramipril): This class of medications works by blocking the body's production of a substance that tightens the blood vessels. As a result, the blood vessels become more relaxed, and the pressure of the blood inside the vessels decreases.
beta-blockers (e.g., atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol): These medications work by slowing down the heartbeat and decreasing the strength of each beat. This means blood is pumped through the vessels with less force, which lowers blood pressure.
angiotensin II receptor blockers (e.g., candesartan, losartan, valsartan): This group of medications works in a similar way as the ACE inhibitors. But instead of blocking the production of the blood vessel-tightening substance, it stops the substance from working on the blood vessels. This causes the blood vessels to relax and the blood pressure to decrease.
calcium channel blockers (e.g., diltiazem, nifedipine, verapamil): These medications work by relaxing the tiny muscles that surround the blood vessels as well as decreasing the speed and strength of each heart beat. When these muscles relax, the blood vessels become larger. Larger vessels means more space for the blood inside the vessels and lower blood pressure. Also, the blood is pumped through the vessels with less force, which lowers blood pressure.
Although not a separate class, there are a number of products available in combination formulations that contain two medications in one pill (e.g., lisinopril plus hydrochlorothiazide (Zestoretic®), enalapril plus hydrocholorthiazide (Vaseretic®), eprosartan plus hydrochlorothiazide (Teveten Plus®), and many others). These combination products reduce the number of pills you need to take.
Understanding how your blood pressure medication works will help you be better informed about your treatment. If you have any questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
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