How Effective Are Blood Pressure Drugs?

Do Blood Pressure Drugs Work?

Yes, drugs used to prevent high blood pressure (hypertension) can be very successful. The aim of therapy is to keep blood pressure within healthy levels and reduce the occurrence of heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and kidney damage. The evidence shows that lowering systolic blood pressure by 10 points reduces the risk of heart attacks in women by 22 per cent and strokes by 41 per cent. And reducing diastolic blood pressure by just 5-6 mm Hg would result in 25 percent fewer deaths from heart disease. See also: blood pressure readings. However blood pressure meds need to be used carefully and side effects are possible. Report any reactions or new symptoms to your doctor as soon as you notice them - there may be a simple solution. Commonly prescribed drugs include the following:

Diuretics or 'water pills' expel sodium and fluid from the body and reduce the volume of blood. They are best taken in the day because of increased urination. Side effects may include tiredness and gout. Results from a long-term study recently suggested that water pills work just as well as newer hypertension medications in lowering blood pressure and are more effective in preventing heart attacks, strokes and heart failure.

Beta Blockers may be used with diuretics or on their own, to reduce the amount of blood being pumped by the heart. Side effects include fatigue, cold hands and feet, sleep disturbance and wheezing. Beta blockers are not suitable for people with asthma or breathing trouble. They are more likely to be prescribed to patients who suffer from angina attacks, heart arrhythmias and previous heart attacks.

ACE Inhibitors work by dilating the blood vessels, so reducing the pressure within them. Occasionally, blood pressure can fall too low (hypotension), cause fainting or lightheadedness. They are more likely to be prescribed to patients with diabetes, heart failure, kidney disease or left ventricle heart failure.

Calcium Channel Blockers also have the effect of widening the blood vessels. Possible side effects include flushed skin, headaches, swollen ankles, nausea and rashes. Taking the medication with food reduces the risk. Recent studies show that these drugs may be better than older drugs like beta blockers when taken by African-American patients.

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• Need more information? See: Guide to Hypertension
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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