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Medicines for lowering blood pressure

Several different types of medicines are used to lower blood pressure. The choice of blood pressure medicines can depend on your:

Since everyone is different, some medicines work better for others than they do for you. Your doctor and nurse will usually go through several steps to find the right blood pressure medicines for you. Often you'll need two or three medicines and it may take time to find the right combination and dosage.

Other medicines and supplements can affect your blood pressure medicines. Check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before starting any other medicines or supplements. This is especially important with anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen and diclofenac.

Important

If you take an ACE inhibitor or angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) (for example, cilazapril, enalapril, quinapril, losartan or candesartan) and a diuretic (for example, furosemide or bendroflumethiazide), taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) (for example ibuprofen or aspirin in high doses) could harm your kidneys.

The term for this is "triple whammy". Read NSAIDs and blood pressure medicines for more details.

Check with your doctor, practice nurse or pharmacist if you aren't sure whether you're taking an ACE inhibitor or angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) and a diuretic.

Side effects

Medicines used to treat high blood pressure can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. It's important to follow instructions carefully and to tell your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects you have.

Sometimes, your medicines may lower your blood pressure too much and you may feel faint or dizzy. This is quite common when you first start the medicine and usually goes way with time. These effects put you at risk of falls and injuries, especially if you're an older adult. Be careful when getting up from lying down or sitting. Stand up slowly. If you feel dizzy, sit or lie down for a few moments. Tell your doctor if this continues.

Types of blood pressure medicine

The main types of blood pressure medicines are as follows.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

ACE inhibitors block a hormone in your blood that causes your blood vessels to tighten. In this way, they relax your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. Examples include cilazapril, enalapril, lisinopril and captopril.

Read more about ACE inhibitors.

Angiotensin receptor blockers (also called ARBs)

These also control hormones that affect your blood pressure. Examples include candesartan, irbesartan and losartan.

Read more about ARBs.

Beta blockers

These medicines are often used to reduce blood pressure when other options aren't suitable or aren't working well enough. Examples include atenolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, celiprolol, labetalol, metoprolol and propranolol.

Read more about beta blockers.

Calcium channel blockers

These medicines block calcium from getting into your cells and in this way relax your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. Examples include amlodipine, diltiazem, felodipine, isradipine, nifedipine and verapamil.

Read more about calcium channel blockers.

Diuretics

Diuretics are commonly called water pills. They remove unwanted fluid from your body, which helps lower your blood pressure. Examples include furosemide, bendroflumethiazide, bumetanide, chlortalidone and indapamide.

Read more about diuretics.

Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth and Health Navigator NZ as part of a National Health Content Hub collaborative. Page created December 2021.

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