High Blood Pressure Medication

There are a variety of medications used to treat high blood pressure. These drugs are called antihypertensive agents. Which agent a patient is started on depends on numerous factors, including ease of use, side effects, and coexisting medical conditions that might dictate preferential use of one agent over another.

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Generally, an antihypertensive agent is started at a relatively low dose, and the response to it is assessed over the course of several weeks. If the blood pressure remains elevated, the dose of the medication is gradually increased.

When treatment with relatively high doses of an antihypertensive medication fails to lower blood pressure to target levels, two options are possible:

  1. that particular medication may be discontinued and a different class of antihypertensive medication begun, or
  2. a second class of medication may be added to the first agent.

The second approach is often used because different classes of antihypertensive agents work in different ways to lower blood pressure, and the actions of one agent may complement the actions of the second agent. In some patients, it may be necessary to add a third agent.

Most of the newer blood pressure medications are taken once or twice a day. They all have side effects, but most are well tolerated by patients.

Publication Review By: Jagdish Patel, M.D., F.A.C.C.

Published: 29 Jun 2000

Last Modified: 21 Sep 2015