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Discharge Instructions: Taking Blood Pressure Medicines

You have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension). Diet and exercise help control high blood pressure. Many people also need the help of one or more medicines. Here are the main types of blood pressure medicines and how they work.


Diuretics are sometimes called "water pills." They work in the kidney to flush excess water and salt (sodium) from the body. This lowers the amount of fluid in your blood vessels. This reduces the pressure that the heart has to pump against. These are 1 of the most common and important medicines for managing blood pressure. They may cause you to urinate more than usual.


Beta-blockers reduce nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This makes the heart beat slower and with less force. This reduces the amount of blood that the heart has to pump. Because your heart doesn't have to work as hard, your blood pressure goes down. And the pumping function of your heart improves.

ACE inhibitors

ACE inhibitors cause the blood vessels to relax. This reduces pressure that the heart has to pump against. This helps the blood flow better and lowers blood pressure. This can also help the heart recover from the long-term effects of high blood pressure.

Angiotensin antagonists

Angiotensin antagonists shield blood vessels from a hormone that causes the blood vessels to get stiff and narrow. With this medicine, your vessels become wider (dilate), and your blood pressure goes down.

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs)

Calcium is needed for contraction of the muscle cells both in the heart and the blood vessels. CCBs reduce the amount of calcium that enters the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels. This decreases the force of contraction of the heart muscle. Blood vessels relax. . This lowers your blood pressure.


Alpha-blockers reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels. This prevents them from constricting. This allows blood to pass easily. It causes blood pressure to go down.

Alpha-beta blockers

Alpha-beta blockers work the same way as alpha-blockers but they also slow your heartbeat. As a result, less blood is pumped through your blood vessels and your blood pressure goes down.


Vasodilators relax blood vessels. This causes blood pressure to go down.

Online Medical Reviewer: Anne Clayton APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Glenn Gandelman MD MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Lu Cunningham RN BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/27/2016
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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