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Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure NHLBI Logo
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Types of Blood Pressure Medications

medicationHere's a rundown on the main types of drugs and how they work. Often, two or more drugs work better than one.

For more information, select the type of medication from the list below:

 Diuretics
 Beta-blockers
 ACE inhibitors
 Angiotensin antagonists
 Calcium channel blockers (CCBs)
 Alpha-blockers
 Alpha-beta-blockers
 Nervous system inhibitors
 Vasodilators

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Diuretics

Diuretics are sometimes called "water pills" because they work in the kidney and flush excess water and sodium from the body.

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Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers reduce nerve impulses to the heart and blood vessels. This makes the heart beat slower and with less force. Blood pressure drops and the heart works less hard.

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ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors prevent the formation of a hormone called angiotensin II, which normally causes blood vessels to narrow. The ACE inhibitors cause the vessels to relax and blood pressure goes down.

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Angiotensin antagonists

Angiotensin antagonists shield blood vessels from angiotensin II. As a result, the vessels become wider and blood pressure goes down.

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Calcium channel blockers (CCBs)

CCBs keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and blood vessels. This causes the blood vessels to relax and pressure goes down.

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Alpha-blockers

Alpha-blockers reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels, which allows blood to pass more easily, causing the blood pressure to go down.

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Alpha-beta-blockers

Alpha-beta-blockers work the same way as alpha-blockers but also slow the heartbeat, as beta-blockers do. As a result, less blood is pumped through the vessels and the blood pressure goes down.

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Nervous system inhibitors

Nervous system inhibitors relax blood vessels by controlling nerve impulses. This causes the blood vessels to become wider and the blood pressure to go down.

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Vasodilators

Vasodilators directly open blood vessels by relaxing the muscle in the vessel walls, causing the blood pressure to go down.

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