Types of Blood Pressure Medications

Many medications can lower high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. The medications are grouped into different classes. Each class helps lower blood pressure in different ways.

Classes of blood pressure medications

Some major types of blood pressure medications are provided here.

  • We have included generic names as well as major trade names (in parentheses) to help you identify what you are taking. This information does not imply a recommendation or endorsement from the American Heart Association.
  • Some medications are not on this list. Your health care professional and pharmacist are your best sources of information about the medications you are taking.
  • Talk to your health care professional about all the medications you take. It’s important to understand their desired effects and possible side effects.
  • Never stop taking a medication or change your dose or frequency without checking with your health care professional.
  • Women taking blood pressure medication should check with their health care professional before becoming pregnant. If you discover you are pregnant, talk to your health care professional as soon as possible. They will find the safest medication for you. Some blood pressure medications can be dangerous to both mother and baby during pregnancy.

The classes of blood pressure medications include:


Diuretics, also called water pills, help the body get rid of excess salt and water. This helps control blood pressure. They are often used with other medications.

Commonly prescribed diuretics include:

  • Furosemide (Lasix)
  • Bumetanide (Bumex)
  • Torsemide (Demadex)
  • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
  • Amiloride (Midamor Chlorthalidone, Hygroton)
  • Hydrochlorothiazide or HCTZ (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril)
  • Indapamide (Lozol)
  • Metolazone (Zaroxolyn)
  • Triamterene (Dyrenium)

Some possible side effects include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Low sodium
  • Low potassium
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps
  • Gout, a type of arthritis
  • Trouble getting an erection


Beta-blockers lower the heart rate, which can lower blood pressure.

Commonly prescribed beta blockers include:

  • Acebutolol (Sectral)
  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Betaxolol (Bisoprolol)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Carvedilol phosphate (Coreg CR)
  • Labetalol (Trandate)
  • Metoprolol succinate (Toprol XL, Kapspargo Sprinkle)
  • Metoprolol tartrate (Lopressor)
  • Nadolol (Corgard)
  • Nebivolol (Bystolic)
  • Pindolol (Visken)
  • Propranolol (Inderal, Inderal LA, InnoPran XL)

Some possible side effects include:

  • 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 throughout the body to become narrow. ACE inhibitors help the body produce less angiotensin. This helps the blood vessels relax and open up, which lowers blood pressure.

Commonly prescribed ACE inhibitors include:

  • Captopril (Capoten)
  • Enalapril (Vasotec)
  • Fosinopril (Monopril)
  • Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
  • Perindopril (Aceon)
  • Quinapril (Accupril)
  • Ramipril (Altace)
  • Trandolapril (Mavik)
  • Benazepril (Lotensin)
  • Moexipril (Univasc)

Some possible side effects Include:

  • Dizziness
  • Chronic dry, hacking cough
  • Fainting
  • Hyperkalemia (high blood potassium)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Kidney dysfunction

Women taking ACE inhibitors or ARBs (see below) for high blood pressure should discuss becoming pregnant with their health care team. If you're taking an ACE inhibitor or an ARB and think you might be pregnant, see your health care professional right away. These drugs can be dangerous to both mother and baby during pregnancy. They can cause low blood pressure, severe kidney failure, excess blood potassium, fetal malformation and even death of the newborn.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

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

Commonly prescribed ARBs include:

  • Candesartan (Atacand)
  • Losartan (Cozaar)
  • Valsartan (Diovan)

Some possible side effects include:

  • Kidney damage
  • Low potassium
  • Low blood pressure

Calcium channel blockers

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

Commonly prescribed calcium channel blockers include:

  • 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 possible side effects include:

  • Swelling in lower legs or hands
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Slow heart rate

Alpha blockers

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

Commonly prescribed alpha blockers include:

  • Doxazosin (Cardura)
  • Prazosin (Minipress)
  • Terazosin hydrochloride (Hytrin)

Some possible side effects include:

Central alpha-2 receptor agonists and other centrally-acting medications

These medications block brain signals that can increase heart rate and narrow blood vessels. This lowers blood pressure.

Commonly prescribed central alpha-2 receptor agonists include:

  • Methyldopa (Aldomet)
  • Clonidine (oral and patch) (Catapres, Duraclon, Kapvay, Nexiclon XR)
  • Guanfacine (Intuniv, Tenex)

Some possible side effects include:

  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Depression

Combined alpha and beta-blockers

Combined alpha and beta-blockers may be prescribed for outpatient high blood pressure use if the person is at risk for heart failure.

Commonly prescribed combined alpha and beta blockers include:

  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Labetalol hydrochloride (Normodyne, Trandate)

Possible side effects include:

  • Drop in blood pressure when you stand up
  • Slow heart rates
  • Dizziness
  • Swelling in the extremities (arms, hands, legs and feet) 
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea

Blood vessel dilators (vasodilators)

Blood vessel dilators can cause the muscle in the blood vessel walls to relax, allowing the vessel to widen. This allows blood to flow through better.

Commonly prescribed blood vessel dilators include:

  • Hydralazine (Apresoline)
  • Minoxidil (Loniten)

Some possible side effects include:

  • Fluid retention
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Excessive hair growth
  • Fast heart rate
  • Joint aches and pains

Affording your medications

If medication cost is an issue, let your doctor, pharmacist or other health care team member know. They may suggest a medication that costs less. Also ask about patient assistance programs. Many drug companies provide medication assistance if you are facing financial problems or are uninsured.

Using alternative medications

There are no special pills, vitamins or drinks that can replace prescription medications and lifestyle changes. Herbal remedies are not the same as the medications prescribed by health care professionals. They have not been tested for your safety.

Talk to your health care professional before taking any over-the-counter drug or supplement that claims to lower your blood pressure. They may not work as advertised. They also may affect how other medications work. Some can even raise your blood pressure.

It's important to take only the medications prescribed for you, including those for high blood pressure.

The American Heart Association receives support from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, device manufacturers and health insurance providers whose products may be mentioned in this article. The American Heart Association maintains strict policies preventing supporters from influencing science-based health information. View a list of supporters.