How do blood pressure medications work?

By Derek Borkowski, PharmD-Candidate

Ever wonder how there could be so many different medications for the seemingly straight-forward goal of lowering blood pressure? As it turns out, there are a variety of different mechanisms to achieve this task. Providers will select the medication(s) that they believe will work best for each individual. Below are 3 common ways blood pressure medications work.

Remove excess fluid

Diuretics, often referred to as “water pills”, are a common class of medications that cause your body to shed excess fluid through urination.

Common examples include: hydrochlorothiazide (MICROZIDE), furosemide (LASIX), spironolactone (ALDACTONE) and triamterene (DYAZIDE), among others.

Control heart rate

Intuitively, the faster your resting heart pumps, the higher your average blood pressure will generally be. Beta-blockers are a common class of medications that lower your blood pressure by slowing your heart rate. A sub-set of the class of medications called calcium channel blockers work similarly.

Common examples include: atenolol (TENORMIN), carvedilol (COREG), diltiazem (CARDIZEM), metoprolol tartrate (LOPRESSOR), metoprolol succinate (TOPROL-XL), and verapamil (VERELAN), among others.

Relax blood vessels

Medications that relax blood vessels allow for pressure to be reduced by expanding the volume in which the blood can reside. ACE-inhibitors, ARBs, and calcium channel blockers are common medication classes that lower blood pressure in this fashion.  

Common examples include: amlodipine (NORVASC), benazepril (LOTENSIN), enalapril (VASOTEC), lisinopril (ZESTRIL), nifedipine (PROCARDIA) and valsartan (DIOVAN), among others.

Read More

Read here for more information, as well as other blood pressure and medication information. 

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