Types of Blood Pressure Medications

Prescription blood pressure drugs come in many classes.

Many blood pressure medications, known as antihypertensives, are available by prescription to lower high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. There are a variety of classes of high blood pressure medications and they include a number of different drugs.

Classes of blood pressure medications

Some of the major types of commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications are provided here.

  • For your information and reference, we have included generic names as well as major trade names (noted with a *) to help you identify what you may be taking. However, this information does not signify a recommendation or endorsement from the American Heart Association.
  • If your prescription medication isn’t on this list, remember that your health care professional and pharmacist are your best sources of information.
  • It's important to discuss all of the drugs you take with your health care professional and understand their desired effects and possible side effects.
  • Never stop taking a medication and never change your dose or frequency without first consulting your doctor. If you have an illness, you may wish to discuss your medications with your health care professional.
  • If you have been prescribed blood pressure medication, consult your health care professional prior to conception if you are considering pregnancy or if there is a chance you could become pregnant. If you discover that you are pregnant consult your health care professional as soon as possible to determine the safest medication for you at this time. 

The classes of blood pressure medications include:


Diuretics help the body get rid of excess sodium (salt) and water and help control blood pressure. They are often used in combination with additional prescription therapies.

Generic name Common brand names
Thiazide diuretics
chlorthalidone Hygroton*
hydrochlorothiazide Esidrix*, Hydrodiuril*, Microzide*
indapamide Lozol*
metolazone Mykrox*, Zaroxolyn*
Potassium-sparing diuretics
amiloride hydrochloride Midamar*
spironolactone Aldactone*
triamterene Dyrenium*
eplerenone   Inspra*
Loop diuretic
furosemide Lasix*
bumetanide Bumex*
torsemide Demandex*, SOAANZ*
Combination diuretics
amiloride hydrochloride + hydrochlorothiazide Moduretic*
spironolactone + hydrochlorothiazide Aldactazide*
triamterene + hydrochlorothiazide Dyazide*, Maxzide*

Some noted possible side effects from diuretics:

  • Some of these drugs may decrease your body's supply of the mineral potassium. Symptoms such as weakness, leg cramps or being tired may result. Eating foods containing potassium may help prevent significant potassium loss. If your health care professional recommends it, you could prevent potassium loss by taking a liquid or tablet that has potassium along with the diuretic.
  • People who take diuretics have increased risk of developing gout as a side effect. This isn't common and can be managed by other treatment.
  • People with diabetes may find that diuretic drugs increase their blood sugar level. A change in medication, diet, insulin or oral anti-diabetic dosage corrects this in most cases.
  • Impotence may occur.


Beta-blockers reduce the heart rate, the heart's workload and the heart's output of blood, which lowers blood pressure.

Generic name Common brand names
acebutolol Sectral*
atenolol Tenormin*
betaxolol Kerlone*
bisoprolol Zebeta*
Coreg IR*
carvedilol phosphate
Coreg CR*
labetalol Normodyne*, Trandate*
metoprolol tartrate
metoprolol succinate Toprol-XL*
nadolol Corgard*
penbutolol Levatol*
pindolol Visken*
propranolol IR Inderal*
propranolol LA
Inderal LA*
solotol hydrochloride  
timolol maleate
Combination beta-blocker/diuretic
hydrochlorothiazide and bisoprolol Ziac*

Some noted possible side effects of beta-blockers:

  • Insomnia, sleep changes and nightmares
  • Constipation
  • Tiredness or depression
  • Dizziness
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Symptoms of asthma
  • Sexual and/or erectile dysfunction
  • Heart block

If you have diabetes and you're taking insulin, have your responses to therapy monitored closely.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors)

Angiotensin is a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow, especially in the kidneys but also throughout the body. ACE inhibitors help the body produce less angiotensin, which helps the blood vessels relax and open up, which, in turn, lowers blood pressure.

Generic name Common brand names
benazepril Lotensin*
captopril Capoten*
enalapril Vasotec*
fosinopril Monopril*
lisinopril Prinivel*, Zestril*
moexipril Univasc*
perindopril Aceon*
quinapril Accupril*
ramipril Altace*
trandolapril Mavik*

Some noted possible side effects of ACE inhibitors:

  • Dizziness
  • Chronic dry, hacking cough
  • Fainting
  • Hyperkalemia (high blood potassium)
  • Too low blood pressure
  • In rare instances, kidney damage
  • Women who are taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs (see below) for high blood pressure should discuss becoming pregnant while on this class of drugs with their health care professionals. If you're taking an ACE inhibitor or an ARB and think you might be pregnant, see your health care professional immediately. These drugs have been shown to be dangerous to both mother and baby during pregnancy. They can cause low blood pressure, severe kidney failure, excess blood potassium (hyperkalemia), fetal malformation  and even death of the newborn.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

These drugs block the effects of angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow. This means blood vessels stay open and blood pressure is reduced.

Generic name Common brand names
candesartan Atacand*
eprosartan Teveten*
irbesarten Avapro*
losartan Cozaar*
telmisartan Micardis*
valsartan Diovan*

Some noted possible side effects of Angiotensin II receptor blockers:

  • Dizziness
  • Kidney damage
  • Low potassium
  • Too low blood pressure
  • ARBs should not be used during pregnancy. Medications that act directly on the renin-angiotensin system can cause injury or even death to a developing fetus. When pregnancy is detected, consult your health care professional as soon as possible.

Calcium channel blockers

This drug prevents calcium from entering the muscle cells of the heart and arteries. Calcium channel blockers relax and open up narrowed blood vessels, reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure.

Generic name Common brand names
amlodipine Norvasc*, Lotrel*
diltiazem Cardizem CD*, Cardizem SR*, Dilacor XR*, Tiazac*
felodipine Plendil*
isradipine DynaCirc*, DynaCirc CR*
nicardipine Cardene SR*
nifedipine LA Adalat CC*, Procardia XL*
nisoldipine Sular*
verapamil Calan SR*, Covera HS*, Isoptin SR*, Verelan*

Some noted possible side effects of calcium channel blockers:

  • Swollen ankles
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dizziness

Alpha blockers

These drugs reduce the arteries' resistance, relaxing the muscle tone of the vascular walls.

Generic name Common brand names
doxazosin Cardura*
prazosin Minipress*
terazosin hydrochloride Hytrin*

Some noted possible side effects of alpha blockers:

Central alpha-2 receptor agonists and other centrally acting drugs

These drugs reduce blood pressure by decreasing the activity of the sympathetic (adrenaline-producing) portion of the involuntary nervous system. Methyldopa is considered a generally safe antihypertensive during pregnancy because adverse effects are infrequent for the pregnant woman or the developing fetus.

Generic name Common brand names
methyldopa Aldomet*
clonidine (oral and patch)
Catapres*, Duraclon*, Kapvay*, NEXICLON XR*
Intuniv,* Tenex*

Some noted possible side effects of alpha-2 receptor agonists:

  • Methyldopa can cause drowsiness or dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headache

Combined alpha and beta-blockers

Combined alpha and beta-blockers are used as an IV drip for patients experiencing a hypertensive crisis. They may be prescribed for outpatient high blood pressure use if the patient is at risk for heart failure.

Generic name Common brand names
carvedilol Coreg*
labetalol hydrochloride Normodyne*, Trandate*

A noted possible side effect of combined alpha and beta-blockers:

  • May cause a drop in blood pressure when you stand up

Blood vessel dilators (vasodilators)

Blood vessel dilators, or vasodilators, can cause the muscle in the walls of the blood vessels (especially the arterioles) to relax, allowing the vessel to dilate, or widen. This allows blood to flow through better.

Generic name Common brand names
hydralazine Apresoline*
minoxidil Loniten*†

Some noted possible side effects of vasodilators:

  • Hydralazine may cause headaches, swelling around the eyes, heart palpitations or aches and pains in the joints. Usually none of these symptoms are severe, and most will go away after a few weeks of treatment. This drug isn't usually used by itself.
  • Minoxidil is a potent drug that's usually used only in resistant cases of severe high blood pressure. It may cause fluid retention (marked weight gain) or excessive hair growth.

† Used in severe cases or when kidney failure is present.

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