An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of high blood pressure.
Several classes of drugs are used to treat hypertension.
Diuretics help the kidneys get rid of excess salt and water. They are the mainstays of anti-hypertensive therapy and are often the first drug selected for most people with hypertension. They are also especially helpful for treating patients with heart failure, patients with isolated systolic hypertension, the elderly, and African-Americans. (African-Americans are more likely to be salt-sensitive, so they respond well to these drugs.) They also work well for patients with diabetes. Diuretics are often used in combination with other antihypertensive drugs.
Results of a major long-term study have suggested that diuretics work just as well as newer drugs in lowering blood pressure and are more effective in preventing heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
Diuretic Types and Brands. The three main types of diuretics include:
Problems with Diuretics.
Common Diuretic Side Effect Symptoms.
Beta blockers help slow heart rate and lower blood pressure. They are usually used in combination with other drugs such as ACE inhibitors and diuretics. Beta blockers are more likely to be used to treat hypertension in patients with angina, previous heart attack, arrhythmias with fast heart rates, or migraine headaches. With careful use, they can be beneficial for patients with heart failure.
Brands. Propranolol Propranolol (Inderal), acebutolol (Sectral), atenolol (Tenormin), betaxolol (Kerlone), carteolol (Cartrol), metoprolol (Lopressor), nadolol (Corgard), penbutolol (Levatol), pindolol (Visken), carvedilol (Coreg), timolol (Blocadren), and nebivolol (Bystolic). The drugs may differ in their effects and benefits.
Problems with Beta Blockers.
Common Side Effects.
Check with your doctor about any side effects. Do not stop taking these drugs on your own.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors widen blood vessels and decrease the workload of the heart. They treat high blood pressure and can also help protect the heart and kidneys.
Patients with heart failure or an enlarged left ventricle, previous heart attack, diabetes, or kidney disease are considered particularly good candidates for ACE inhibitors as part of treatment for high blood pressure.
Aspirin is recommended for preventing death in patients with heart disease, and can safely be used in combination with ACE inhibitors, particularly at lower dosages of aspirin (75 - 81 mg).
Brands. ACE inhibitors include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), quinapril (Accupril), benazepril (Lotensin), ramipril (Altace), perindopril (Aceon), and lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril).
Common Side Effects of ACE Inhibitors.
Uncommon Side Effects of ACE Inhibitors.
Patients who have difficulty tolerating ACE inhibitor side effects are usually switched to an angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB).
ARBs, also known as angiotensin II receptor antagonists, are similar to ACE inhibitors in their ability to widen blood vessels and lower blood pressure. They may have fewer or less-severe side effects than ACE inhibitors, especially coughing, and are sometimes prescribed as an alternative to ACE inhibitors. In general they are prescribed to patients who cannot tolerate or did not respond to ACE inhibitors.
Brands. Losartan (Cozaar, Hyzaar), olmesartan (Benicar) candesartan (Atacand), telmisartan (Micardis), eprosartan (Teveten), irbesartan (Avapro), and valsartan (Diovan). A combination medication containing candesartan and the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide (Diovan HCT, Atacand HCT) is also available.
Calcium-channel blockers (CCBs), or calcium antagonists, help relax blood vessels. Along with diuretics, CCBs may work better than other drug classes for lowering blood pressure in African-Americans. Recent research indicates that newer types of drugs (CCBs, ACE inhibitors) may be a better treatment option for some patients than older drugs (especially beta blockers).
Brands. Diltiazem (Cardizem, Dilacor), amlodipine (Norvasc), felodipine (Plendil), isradipine (DynaCirc), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), nisoldipine (Sular), nicardipine (Cardene), nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), lercanidipine (Zanidip), lacidipine (Motens), and nitrendipine (Nitrepin). For patients who have both high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Caduet combines in one pill amlodipine and the statin drug atorvastatin.
Alpha blockers such as doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress), and terazosin (Hytrin) help widen small blood vessels. They are generally not used as first-line drugs for high blood pressure, but are prescribed if other drugs do not work or as add-on medication.
Vasodilators help open blood vessels by relaxing muscles in the blood vessel walls. These drugs are usually used in combination with a diuretic or a beta blocker. They are rarely used by themselves. Vasodilators include hydralazine (Apresoline), clonidine (Catapres), and Minoxidil (Loniten). Some of these drugs should be used with caution or not at all in people who have angina or who have had a heart attack.
Aliskiren (Tekturna). In 2007, the FDA approved aliskiren for treatment of high blood pressure. Aliskiren can be taken either alone or in combination with other blood pressure medication. It should not be used during pregnancy as it can cause injury or death to the fetus. Aliskiren inhibits renin, a kidney enzyme associated with the regulation of blood pressure.
Adrogué HJ, Madias NE. Sodium and potassium in the pathogenesis of hypertension. N Engl J Med. 2007 May 10;356(19):1966-78.
AHA; ACC; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Smith SC Jr, Allen J, Blair SN, Bonow RO, Brass LM, Fonarow GC, et al. AHA/ACC guidelines for secondary prevention for patients with coronary and other atherosclerotic vascular disease: 2006 update endorsed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006 May 16;47(10):2130-9.
Barzilay JI, Davis BR, Cutler JA, Pressel SL, Whelton PK, Basile J, et al. Fasting glucose levels and incident diabetes mellitus in older nondiabetic adults randomized to receive 3 different classes of antihypertensive treatment: a report from the Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT). Arch Intern Med. 2006 Nov 13;166(20):2191-201.
Bellamy L, Casas JP, Hingorani AD, Williams DJ. Pre-eclampsia and risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer in later life: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2007 Nov 10;335(7627):974. Epub 2007 Nov 1.
Beulens JW, Rimm EB, Ascherio A, Spiegelman D, Hendriks HF, Mukamal KJ. Alcohol consumption and risk for coronary heart disease among men with hypertension. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Jan 2;146(1):10-9.
Blood Pressure Lowering Treatment Trialists' Collaboration, Turnbull F, Neal B, Ninomiya T, Algert C, Arima H, et al Effects of different regimens to lower blood pressure on major cardiovascular events in older and younger adults: meta-analysis of randomised trials. BMJ. 2008 May 17;336(7653):1121-3. Epub 2008 May 14.
Calhoun DA, Jones D, Textor S, Goff DC, Murphy TP, Toto RD, et al. Resistant hypertension: diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Professional Education Committee of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research. Circulation. 2008 Jun 24;117(25):e510-26.
Connolly HM, Oh JK. Echocardiography. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders; 2007:chap 14.
Cook NR, Obarzanek E, Cutler JA, Buring JE, Rexrode KM, Kumanyika SK, et al. Joint effects of sodium and potassium intake on subsequent cardiovascular disease: the Trials of Hypertension Prevention follow-up study. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Jan 12;169(1):32-40.
Din-Dzietham R, Liu Y, Bielo MV, Shamsa F. High blood pressure trends in children and adolescents in national surveys, 1963 to 2002. Circulation. 2007 Sep 25;116(13):1488-96. Epub 2007 Sep 10.
Fagard RH, Cornelissen VA. Incidence of cardiovascular events in white-coat, masked and sustained hypertension versus true normotension: a meta-analysis. J Hypertens. 2007 Nov;25(11):2193-8.
Gami AS and Somers VK. Sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders; 2007:chap 74.
Hansen ML, Gunn PW, Kaelber DC. Underdiagnosis of hypertension in children and adolescents. JAMA. 2007 Aug 22;298(8):874-9.
Kaplan NM. Systemic hypertension: therapy. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders; 2007:chap 41.
Magnussen EB, Vatten LJ, Lund-Nilsen TI, Salvesen KA, Davey Smith G, Romundstad PR. Prepregnancy cardiovascular risk factors as predictors of pre-eclampsia: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2007 Nov 10;335(7627):978. Epub 2007 Nov 1.
Matchar DB, McCrory DC, Orlando LA, Patel MR, Patel UD, Patwardhan MB, et al. Systematic review: comparative effectiveness of angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers for treating essential hypertension. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Jan 1;148(1):16-29. Epub 2007 Nov 5.
Pickering TG, Miller NH, Ogedegbe G, Krakoff LR, Artinian NT, Goff D; et al. Call to action on use and reimbursement for home blood pressure monitoring: a joint scientific statement from the American Heart Association, American Society Of Hypertension, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. Hypertension. 2008 Jul;52(1):10-29. Epub 2008 May 22.
Urbina E, Alpert B, Flynn J, Hayman L, Harshfield GA, Jacobson M, et al. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring in children and adolescents: recommendations for standard assessment: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Atherosclerosis, Hypertension, and Obesity in Youth Committee of the council on cardiovascular disease in the young and the council for high blood pressure research. Hypertension. 2008 Sep;52(3):433-51. Epub 2008 Aug 4.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus in adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2008 Jun 3;148(11):846-54.
Victor RG and Kaplan NM. Systemic hypertension: mechanisms and diagnosis. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Libby: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Saunders; 2007:chap 40.
Wolff T, Miller T. Evidence for the reaffirmation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation on screening for high blood pressure. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Dec 4;147(11):787-91.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885