Take the Blue Pill or the Red Pill?
Several categories of pharmaceuticals work in different ways to help lower high blood pressure. If your doctor recommends drugs, sometimes several may be needed to get the right results for your particular situation. Here's some basic information about the various types of medication your doctor may prescribe for your condition.
ACE inhibitors—These drugs prevent the body from producing angiotensin II, a chemical that narrows blood vessels. Brand names include Vasotec, Prinivil and Altace.
Angiotensin II receptor blockers—These seek to stop the vessel-narrowing effect of angiotensin II. Some examples are Micardis, Diovan and Avalide.
Alpha blockers—They work by preventing the nervous system from constricting the smaller arterial muscle walls, allowing blood to flow more freely. Includes Minipress and Hytrin.
Beta blockers—These work by blocking the effects of norepinephrine, a chemical which causes vessel constriction and increased heart rate. Coreg, Lopressor and Corgard are examples.
Calcium channel blockers—These relax the blood vessels, thus lowering the pressure needed to move blood through the body. They include Norvasc, Cardizem and Vascor.
Central acting agents—These drugs target the brain and central nervous system, blocking the impulses that signal the heart to beat faster and the vessels to constrict. Names include Catapres, Tenex and Serpasil.
Diuretics—These work by helping your body eliminate excess sodium and fluid, thereby decreasing fluid pressure on organs and vessels. Some examples are Diuril, Lasix and Midamor.