Diuretics are the most commonly prescribed group of drugs. The ‘water pills,’ as they are known, lower blood pressure by making the body excrete more salt and water through urine. These drugs are popular with doctors for their consistent results.
- Thiazide/thiazide-related diuretics
This is the most effective drug group for lowering your blood pressure levels. Very affordable, simple administration (one pill a day). There are marginal increases in effectivity when it comes to dosage so that it can be kept low. Side effects include possible increases in blood calcium levels.
Even among the thiazides, hydrochlorothiazide is consistently the drug of choice and it can be effective even with small doses. There is evidence that it can reduce heart attacks at lower doses compared to higher doses. However, it is not recommended for patients with failed kidneys or allergies to certain drugs.
Often sold as Naturetin. Despite being similar in many ways to hydrochlorothiazide, it’s ten times stronger (and much more expensive). Often sold in tablets of 5 and 10mg, dosage: daily or every other day at 2.5 to 5mg. It is definitely not recommended for those who choose to breastfeed.
- Drugs affecting the nervous system
This group of drugs lowers blood pressure by acting on neural transmissions in or out of the brain which would normally command the blood vessels to constrict, increasing the blood pressure. These chemical agents work in a variety of ways, all interfering with the sympathetic nervous system.
Sometimes sold as Aldomet, it stops the brain releasing neurotransmitters (messengers carrying a message), therefore the receptors never get the message to constrict. It does have rare but significant side effects: a decrease in red blood cell count due to anemia, fever accompanying liver damage, lower libido.
- Beta blockers
The most powerful group of drugs that affect the nervous system, only thiazide diuretics are more effective. In general, these drugs have similar effectivity on blood pressure levels. When thiazides aren’t enough, these are often the next drug on the patient’s prescription.
- Alpha blockers
Like their name implies, they block nerve receptors: alpha1 which are found in some blood vessels, and alpha2 which are found at nerve junctions. It’s the alpha1 blockers that are used for high blood pressure since they relax the blood vessel walls, increasing the space for blood to flow.
Taken by themselves, these drugs relax arterial muscles but the exact mechanism is unknown. Often used in conjunction with diuretics and beta blockers. The diuretics get rid of water, while the beta blockers slow down the heart, which speeds up due to the falling blood pressure caused by the vasodilator.
- Calcium channel blockers
In order for arterial muscles to contract, they need calcium. Calcium channel blockers take advantage of this fact, therefore preventing contractions from taking place. Like vasodilators, they increase the diameter of the blood vessel and thus improve flow, but the way they work is different.