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What are angiotensin receptor blockers, and how do they work?
Angiotensin II is a very potent chemical formed in the blood that causes muscles surrounding blood vessels to contract, thereby narrowing the vessels. This narrowing increases the pressure within the vessels and can cause high blood pressure (hypertension). Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are medications that block the action of angiotensin II by preventing angiotensin II from binding to angiotensin II receptors on the muscles surrounding blood vessels. As a result, blood vessels enlarge (dilate) and blood pressure is reduced. Reduced blood pressure makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and can improve heart failure. In addition, the progression of kidney disease caused by the high blood pressure or diabetes is slowed. ARBs have effects that are similar to angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, but ACE inhibitors act by preventing the formation of angiotensin II rather than by blocking the binding of angiotensin II to muscles on blood vessels.
For what conditions are ARBs used?
- ARBs are used for controlling high blood pressure, treating heart failure, and preventing kidney failure in people with diabetes or high blood pressure.
- ARGs also may prevent diabetes and reduce the risk of stroke in patients with high blood pressure and an enlarged heart.
- ARBs also may prevent the recurrence of atrial fibrillation.
Since ARB medications have effects that are similar to those of ACE inhibitors, they often are used when ACE inhibitors are not tolerated by patients (for example, due to excessive coughing).
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