Blood Pressure Medications can Multi-Task

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Published 6-24-08

“Dear Pharmacist,

I have high blood pressure. I don’t believe in vitamins, but my medicine makes me feel terrible. I’ve tried four different prescriptions but I always get sick, dizzy or tired from these drugs. Can you teach me more about blood pressure medicine so I can find one that’s right for me?”

–D.S., Tulsa, Oklahoma

ANSWER: Blood pressure meds actually multi-task, so finding one with the right ‘personality’ is sort of like playing matchmaker. For example, men who are balding might want ‘minoxidil’ because it lowers blood pressure and spurs hair growth. Minoxidil is sold over-the-counter as a liquid solution for hair growth called Rogaine.

Consider Clonidine (Catapres) which works in the brain to reduce blood pressure, and also helps attention deficit and withdrawal symptoms from nicotine, alcohol and addictive drugs. Then there’s propranolol, which lowers blood pressure and prevents migraines. And two drugs, doxazosin and terazosin, are great for older men because they lower blood pressure and relieve symptoms of an enlarged prostate.

I’m a natural pharmacist who thinks outside the pill, so I urge you to reconsider your position about vitamins and dietary supplements. I also recommend taking up exercise and avoiding fried fatty food. In the meantime, here’s some information about the most popular blood pressure medications at the pharmacy. Bear in mind that all blood pressure drugs can make you tired, spacey and very dizzy when you stand up.

Diuretics or Water Pills: These force your kidneys to dump salt (and water), making you go to the bathroom more frequently. It reduces the amount of fluid coursing through your blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure. Take these every morning so potty trips won’t interrupt your sleep. These include hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) and furosemide (Lasix).

Beta-blockers: These slow down your heart rate and widen the arteries, taking some pressure off your pipeline. Popular ones include metoprolol (Lopressor/Toprol), atenolol (Tenormin) and propranolol (Inderal). The side effects are lengthy, including dry mouth, tiredness, nightmares, cold hands and feet, dry eyes, wheezing and decreased libido.

Calcium channel blockers: These are drugs that prevent calcium from getting inside arterial cells and squeezing them off. Because they widen blood vessels, including those that surround the heart, these drugs are perfect for chest pain (angina). They can cause dizziness, swelling of the ankles, constipation and headache. Popular ones include amlodipine (Norvasc), verapamil (Calan), nifedipine (Procardia) and diltiazem (Cardizem).

ACE inhibitors: ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) is a powerful hormone that raises blood pressure so any drug that inhibits or blocks ACE is great. Popular ones include captopril (Capoten), lisinopril (Zestril), enalapril (Vasotec) and benazepril (Lotensin).  A newer group of drugs –but similar in action- came out and these “ARBs” are known as Cozaar, Diovan, Avapro, Atacand and Micardis and Benicar. Generally speaking, drugs affecting ACE are preferred for people with kidney compromise. Side effects include swelling of the tongue or lips, metallic taste, swollen feet, drowsiness and a persistent, dry cough.

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Did You Know?
Drinking 1 cup of Stinging Nettle tea per day might relieve prostate problems and seasonal allergies.