Hello. This is Heart Health Tuesdays! Today, we’ll talk about 6 types of medications for treating high blood pressure. Once you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor may want to prescribe you medication to bring your high blood pressure to a more manageable level. It’s important to know what each of these medications does to understand your blood pressure treatment better.
Prescription High Blood Pressure Medications
You’ll need to get a prescription for these medications and have them filled by a pharmacy. Your doctor will then monitor your blood pressure and keep an eye on any potential side effects before renewing your prescription.
Beta- and Alpha-Blockers
Beta-blockers block the attachment of epinephrine (adrenaline) at the cellular level of blood vessels and heart muscle. This slows the heart rate, and your blood pressure decreases. Metoprolol is one of the most commonly prescribed beta-blockers.
Alpha-blockers instead block the attachment of norepinephrine at receptors in blood vessels, relaxing the walls of your arteries and improving blood flow. They are typically prescribed less often than beta-blockers because they aren’t as effective at reducing your risk of dangerous complications like stroke and heart attacks.
In some cases, doctors will prescribe both alpha- and beta-blockers or a single pill that combines the two effects. However, these are typically only used if hypertension gets bad enough to be life-threatening, and they’re rarely used as a routine management strategy.
Diuretics increase urine production, which is a natural way for your body to rid itself of excess sodium and water. They are naturally present in alcohol, caffeine, and certain teas, especially hibiscus tea.
Keep in mind that diuretics can put more strain on your kidneys, which can increase your risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Avoid them if kidney disease runs in your family or if you have other high-risk factors, especially since hypertension can be a precursor to kidney troubles.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors restrict the production of angiotensin II in your body, which is an enzyme that narrows your blood vessels.
By decreasing angiotensin II levels, normal blood pressure can be achieved. ACE inhibitors are offered as prescription medications, but they’re also a naturally-occurring effect of certain foods like dairy products and eggs.
Common ACE inhibitor medications include Lisinopril, Enalapril, Captopril, Benazepril, and Univasc.
Beta-blockers, diuretics, and ACE inhibitors can all cause issues with potassium levels. It’s important to have your potassium monitored when taking these medications.
Vasodilator drugs dilate your blood vessels, which means they widen your veins and arteries. Blood is able to flow through them more freely, which reduces your blood pressure.
Vasodilators typically have very few side effects, and those that do occur are usually mild. However, if side effects of feeling light-headed or nausea remain persistent, you may need a dosage adjustment or an alternative medication.
Calcium Channel Blockers
Calcium can travel across the cell membrane of heart cells and blood vessel cells and cause smooth muscle contraction. It travels across the cells through channels. If more calcium travels across the channels, you get stronger smooth muscle contractions in the blood vessel walls causing the vessels to narrow.
Calcium channel blockers prevent the passage of calcium into these muscle cells, which means contractions are not nearly as forceful and the arteries don’t get so narrow. They lower your blood pressure by widening blood vessels and decreasing your heart rate.
Side effects include headaches, dizziness, swelling in your ankles, and palpitations.
Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors
Peripheral adrenergic inhibitors aren’t used very often as a high blood pressure treatment method, but your doctor may prescribe them if other medications haven’t been working well.
Rather than directly affecting your blood vessels, these drugs affect certain neurotransmitters in your brain that are responsible for telling the smooth muscles in your blood vessels to constrict. Without the constriction signal, blood vessels remain open wide enough for blood cells to pass through easily.
Since peripheral adrenergic inhibitors interact with your neurotransmitters, some have been linked to conditions such as depression or insomnia. You may also experience lightheadedness and fainting from low blood pressure if the medications’ effects are stronger than anticipated.
Over-the-Counter Medications for High Blood Pressure Treatment
Many people ask if there are any over-the-counter medications for high blood pressure.
There are currently no FDA-approved medications that reduce blood pressure available without a prescription, though some supplements may promise to do so. Before taking any supplement, speak to your doctor about potential drug interactions and general safety.
In A Nutshell…
Medication isn’t the only available high blood pressure treatment. You can also use natural methods like changing your diet and exercising more to reinforce the positive effects of medications.
When in doubt, discuss your treatment options with your doctor.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Is Dietary Supplementation Right For You?
There is a common saying, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” This is especially true when it comes to heart health. Diet is sooooo very important… Did you know that your diet could be the key to a healthy heart? It’s true – what you eat (and don’t eat) can have a big impact on your cardiovascular health. So, if you’re looking to keep your heart in tip-top shape, make sure you pay attention to what you put on your plate.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to eat a healthy diet in this day and age. It is very important to note that we are not eating the same foods we ate years ago because the soils have been depleted of critical nutrients through current industrial farming practices. And because the soil is not as good as it used to be, the food supply (grown from the depleted soil) is not as good as it used to be. For example, you are not getting the same levels of magnesium as you would have gotten 30 or even 50 years ago.
Second, much of the food has been genetically altered, which can impact the inherent and unique nutritional composition that each food possess. For example, ancient einkorn wheat has less gluten, more protein, more Vitamin A, and more beta carotene, than modern genetically modified wheat.
Third, the toxic load in the environment today is much higher than 100 years ago. We can see this with global warming, toxic landfills, polluted oceans and waterways, etc. Toxicity levels interfere with nutrient assimilation and absorption not just into the foods, but into our bodies as well.
If you suspect that you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, consider shifting your focus from supplements to eating better. Improving your diet overall can do wonders for your overall health. You may not get all of the beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc., but you will be on the right path.
For some people, vitamin and mineral supplements offer important health benefits. Supplements are designed to fight deficiencies found in our diet and complement the food we eat regularly. Supplements are basically “helping hands” to our daily food.
If you need extra help in getting the nutrients you need, and/or are unable to eat better, the supplements in my Healthy Heart Bundle may provide the extra boost you need.
These are my favorite Heart Health Supplements to use! This Healthy Heart Bundle will ensure you have the intake of the important vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to decrease inflammation and boost your innate wellness day and night. Taken together, it’s a solid plan for increasing your body’s natural resiliency while you lose weight and improve your heart health, naturally.
For best results make sure you use my heart health supplements with dietary changes (whole food plant-based diet), regular exercise (at least 2-3x per week), regular sleep (8 hours per night), and intermittent fasting (at least 1-3x per week).
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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