Blood Pressure Guidelines (cont.)
The type of medication prescribed to
treat high blood pressure will depend upon the patient and any other
underlying illnesses that they might have. Medications that are often used
- Diuretics: Often called "water pills," they cause the kidneys to make more
urine and decrease the amount of fluid in the body.
- Beta blockers: These medications are named because they block the beta
adrenaline receptors in the heart and blood vessels. They tend to relax the
smooth muscles in artery walls decreasing the resting diastolic pressure.
Additionally, they cause the heart to beat less forcefully, decreasing systolic
- Calcium channel blockers: These drugs work at the heart cell level,
blocking the flow of calcium in and out of the cell, which causes the heart to
contract less forcefully, and decreasing the systolic pressure it generates.
- Angiotensin receptor blockers
(ARBs): These medications affect a group of hormones
in the body that are associated with the kidney and blood pressure control,
including renin, angiotensin, vasopressin and aldosterone. These medications
cause arterial dilation and also affect the secretion of vasopressin and
Most patients with high blood pressure have primary or essential hypertension
(high blood pressure for no specific reason). However, approximately 5% to 10%
of patients may have secondary hypertension (high blood pressure due to an
underlying cause or disease). These may include kidney or adrenal gland
abnormalities, fibromuscular hyperplasia of an artery to the kidney, or side
effects from medications or drugs. For that reason, it is wise that patients
with high blood pressure readings seek care from a health professional.
References: Last Editorial Review: 3/22/2013
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of
Health, "The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure."
Rosendorff, C., Black, H., Cannon, C., Gersh, B., Gore, J., Izzo, J., Kaplan,
N., O'Connor, C., O'Gara, P., Oparil, S.; "Treatment of Hypertension in the Prevention and Management of Ischemic Heart Disease."