Medications used to treat Hypertension

  • Beta Blockers - drugs that block Adrenaline (e.g. Propanolol)
  • Alpha Blockers - drugs that block Noradrenaline and other hormones
  • ACE Inhibitors - Special class of medications that block the production of hormones called Angiotensin. Angiotensin is a very powerful hormone that constricts arteries. (e.g. Captopril)
  • Calcium Channel Blockers - medication that prevent the influx of calcium into cells. Calcium is used by muscle cells in the arteries to mediate contraction and constriction of the blood vessel. (e.g. Nifedipine)
  • Centrally Acting Drugs - These drugs act in your brain to dilate arteries. (e.g. Clonidine)
  • Direct Smooth Muscle Dilators - These drugs work directly on the muscles used to constrict your arteries (e.g. Hydralazine)
  • Diuretics - Finally, these medications cause you to release more salt and water into your urine. (e.g. HCTZ)

Within each class of medication is a whole array of different drugs that on the whole work the same but have differences in what they do to other organs or other physiologic mechanisms. Therefore the choice if which class to use and which medication within a particular class is important and must be tailored to suit the individual patient.

Using two or more drugs from the same class is generally not helpful and using drugs in combination from different classes will augment blood pressure control.

In all cases, diet is still the cornerstone of treatment and you must still exercise diligence in your salt intake.

More on specific medications in future issues.

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