And How They Work to Lower Hypertension
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is known as the “silent killer” because it exhibits no symptoms. Typically people first learn they have it when their doctor tells them during a routine visit. That’s how I found out. I was amazed. I’m an avid runner and walker, my weight is acceptable, and I eat well. But as the doc told me, “You’re doing the right things, but if it’s in your genes, it’s in your genes.” Oh crap.
So. Meds. Nobody likes them. Get over it. Blood pressure meds might be the worst; the one good thing is that even if you don’t have conventional insurance or Medicare Part D, generics are quite affordable. Here are the ones you need to be acquainted with if you are diagnosed with hypertension.
- Diuretics. Also known as “water pills,” these meds cause your body to produce more urine which in turn causes you to eliminate more salt from your body (and most importantly, your bloodstream). Even if you don’t add salt to your food, most of your sodium intake comes from eating out and packaged foods. Salt’s effect is to act on your kidneys to make your body hold on to more water. Extra stored water raises your blood pressure and puts a strain on your kidneys, arteries, heart, and brain. If you are prescribed a diuretic, stay close to a bathroom.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs). These meds block the effects of a hormone, you guessed it, called angiotensin II. This hormone is a peptide hormone that causes vasoconstriction, and consequently, a rise in your blood pressure. It’s part of the renin-angiotensin system. This system regulates blood pressure. Angiotensin also stimulates the release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex to promote sodium retention by the kidneys. There’s that salt raising it’s ugly head again.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. ACE inhibitors are a type of meds used primarily for the treatment of high blood pressure and heart failure. The way they work is by causing relaxation of your blood vessels as well as a decrease in blood volume, which leads to lower blood pressure and decreased oxygen demand from the heart. The brand I take is Lisinopril, which luckily, is a generic so it is inexpensive, especially with medical insurance. The main side effects are a persistent dry cough and a feeling of lethargy.
- Beta-blockers. This type helps in reducing the heart rate thereby decreasing your blood pressure. Your doctor might call them beta-adrenergic blocking agents. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. There are some beta-blockers that mainly affect your heart, while others affect both your heart and your blood vessels.
- Calcium channel blockers. This type reduces the amount of calcium that enters your heart muscles thereby reducing the heart rate and controlling blood pressure.
- Alpha-blockers: The muscles of your arteries and veins are relaxed with this type thus reducing the blood pressure.
General Considerations for Hypertension Medications
There are some things to know when you are prescribed hypertension meds. The first is that they all have side effects so you may have to work with your doctor to find the one that works best for your lifestyle. When I tried a calcium channel blocker it caused too much ankle swelling. When I switched to lisinopril I found that it affected my running, particularly any long run over 10 miles made me feel wonky and my vision to get weird… after I stopped. My solution? I now take it in the evening rather than in the morning. Despite the side effects, medication drastically lowers the chance of a stroke.
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About the Author:
Kelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.