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8 Classes of Blood Pressure Drugs and Why Are They 3rd on the 10 Most Dangerous Drugs List

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When you go to the doctor and you’re told you have high blood pressure, you probably aren’t told to go home and change your diet but indeed, that should be the first thing you do as well as addressing other aspects of lifestyle. Here are 8 classes of blood pressure drugs.


Medications that lower blood pressure do come with a price and side effects. Many of the side effects such as dizziness, the need to urinate more frequently, or impaired thinking may increase the risk of falls in the elderly. Other side effects such as higher blood sugar can cause issues for people with diabetes. In men, impotence is a big issue.

1. Ace Inhibitors (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) - inhibitors prevent your body from making Angiotensin II, a natural substance our bodies produce that among other things, can cause our blood vessels to narrow, thicken and stiffen. Angiotensin II also triggers the release of a hormone associated with increased water and sodium in the body.

Side effects: Most common - Dry cough. Less common – light headedness, dizziness, rash, reduced appetite, increased blood potassium level, changes in the flavor of food and swelling. ACE inhibitors are associated with birth defects. Some pain relievers reduce the effectiveness of ACE inhibitors.

2. Alpha Blockers - stop the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) from constricting the muscles that surround the veins, smaller arteries, and other muscles throughout the body.

Side effects: Include “first dose effect” – when first taking Alpha Blockers, some people get dramatically reduced blood pressure, dizziness, and feel faint when sitting or standing up. Additional side effects include headache, pounding heartbeat, nausea, weakness, and weight gain.

3. Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers - block the action (not the production) of Angiotensin II.

Side effects: Diarrhea, dizziness, headache, light-headedness, back and leg pain, sinus congestion, kidney failure, liver failure, allergic reaction, lowered white blood cells, swelling and is also associated with birth defects. ARB’s are linked to some types of cancer including lung cancer. (See Cancer Risk below)

4. Beta Blockers (Beta adrenergic blocking agents) - block adranaline (epinephrine) causing the heart to slow and blood vessels to open.

Side effects: Cold hands, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, depression, reduced libido, insomnia, shortness of breath, severe asthma attacks, may block signs of low blood sugar in diabetics (like racing pulse), and can affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Stopping the drug abruptly may lead to increased risk of heart attack. Some physicians see a link between Beta Blockers and INCREASED heart disease.

5. Calcium Channel Blockers (calcium antagonists) - Inhibit calcium ions from getting into the cell walls of the heart and the muscles surrounding blood vessels, causing them to relax (for a muscle to contract, it needs calcium ions Ca2+ to cross its cell membrane).

Side effects: Constipation, drowsiness, flushing, headache, nausea, and swelling of the lower legs and feet. Some calcium channel blockers react with grapefruit and foods that contain grapefruit by blocking the liver from properly removing them from the blood – resulting in dangerous concentrations. Not only are the short-acting calcium channel blockers been linked with cancer, but they have been shown to increase risk of death from a heart attack, says the National Institutes of Health, which also says they should be prescribed with caution. [1] In addition, this class of drugs has been linked to 50% increase in breast cancer. [1]

6. Central Acting Agents (also called central adrenergic inhibitors; central alpha agonists; central agonists) – These drugs work directly in the brain, blocking signals that speed up the heart rate or constrict blood vessels, This class of drugs is less commonly prescribed due to strong side effects.

Side effects: Constipation, depression, drowsiness, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, impotence, headache, impaired thinking and weight gain. Abrupt discontinuation can cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure (rebound hypertension) especially when taken with a beta-blocker.

7. Diuretics – (3 classes – Thiazide Diuretics, Loop Diuretics, Potassium Sparing Diuretics) - Diuretics work by causing the kidneys to excrete sodium and water in the urine, resulting in less in the blood and hence lower blood pressure.

Side effects: Increased urination (most common with loop diuretics), high potassium levels (with potassium sparing diuretics) that could lead to arrhythmia and death, too little potassium in the blood (thiazide diuretics), gynecomastia (breast enlargement in men), increased blood sugar, increased cholesterol, erectile dysfunction (ED), rash, gout, and menstrual irregularities and increased risk of heart disease.

8. Vasodilators - Cause blood vessels to open (their precise mechanism is not fully understood).

Hydralazine is thought to interfere with calcium ion release in the muscles that surround blood vessels, causing them to relax. The Minoxidil molecule contains a nitric oxide element that may trick blood vessels into opening.

Side effects: chest pain, dizziness, flushing, headache, fluid retention, heart palpitations, nausea, sinus congestion, racing pulse, vomiting, excessive hair growth.

Mumber 1 most dangerous blood pressure medication side effect

Complacency and False Sense of Security

Blood pressure medications treat the symptoms, but do nothing for the cause of high blood pressure.

Cancer Risks

Several types of high blood pressure medications have been linked to an elevated risk for cancer. In a recent study colorectal cancer was higher in people getting treatment for hypertension. [2] In another study, Drs. Ilke Sipahi, Daniel I. Simon and James C. Fang completed an analysis of over 60,000 patients randomly assigned to take either placebo or a blood pressure medication known as angiotensin-receptor blocker (ARB). They found that ARB was linked to an increased risk for cancer. For example, the risk for lung cancer was 25 percent higher among participants taking ARBs than among the control subjects. These findings were published online in The "Lancet Oncology” journal in July 2010. For five years, Dr. A.L. Fitzpatrick and colleagues followed 3,198 women over age 65 taking short-acting calcium channel blockers, other types of high blood pressure medication, or no blood pressure drugs. They found that women taking calcium channel blockers were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as subjects who were not taking high blood pressure medication. The study was published in the “Cancer” journal in October 1997. [1,3]

There are many causes of high blood pressure:

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• Stress
• Smoking
• Lack of Exercise
• High intake of salt (>1500-2000mg) Watch for hidden sodium in processed foods **Also note do NOT use processed salt which contains silica and can cause damage inside blood vessels leading to plaque formation.
• Low potassium levels (Potassium food sources are apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, lima beans, milk, oranges, potatoes, prunes, spinach, squash and tomatoes)
• Heavy Metals (Lead, Cadmium, Mercury)
• Overweight
• Refined Carbohydrates (Sugar)
• Alcohol
• Caffeine
• Not enough sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to cardiovascular issues.
• Unhealthy diet (try to eat balanced diet of organic fresh foods, low fat/high protein, limit sugar and dairy)

What are alternatives to medications?

Deal with stress. Learn to say no. Take a yoga class or join a gym. Meditate. Get a massage. There is evidence that massage lowers blood pressure in most people.

DASH Diet - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension In one study of people using DASH diet there was an average drop in BP of 11.4mmHg Systolic and 5.5mmHg Diastolic (Diet Plan is as Effective as a Blood Pressure Pill).

Besides stopping alcohol and tobacco use, and losing weight there are natural solutions to diet and supplements that lower blood pressure. Research now shows that there are minerals that may be missing from your diet that can help lower blood pressure: calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

• One cup of white beans provides 13% of the calcium, 30% of the magnesium, and 24% of the potassium you need every day.

• One kiwifruit provides 2% of the calcium, 7% of the magnesium, and 9% of the potassium you need every day. Tip: Kiwifruit is available year-round in supermarkets. Ripe kiwis can be stored in the fridge or on your counter. They contain more vitamin C than a same-size serving of orange slices.

• One medium peach or nectarine provides 1% of the calcium, 3% of the magnesium, and 8% of the potassium you need every day.

• One medium banana provides 1% of the calcium, 8% of the magnesium, and 12% of the potassium you need every day.

• One cup of kale, raw or cooked, provides 9% of the calcium, 6% of the magnesium, and 9% of the potassium you need every day.

• One cup of raw red bell pepper provides 1% of the calcium, 4% of the magnesium, and 9% of the potassium you need every day. Red bell peppers are high in Vitamin C which is a powerful anti-oxidant.

• One cup of cooked broccoli provides 6% of the calcium, 8% of the magnesium, and 14% of the potassium you need every day.

• One medium sweet potato with the skin provides 4% of the calcium, 8% of the magnesium (7% without the skin), and 15% of the potassium (10% without the skin) you need every day

• A half-cup of cooked quinoa provides 1.5% of the calcium, 15% of the magnesium, and 4.5% of the potassium you need every day.

• One-half of an avocado provides 1% of the calcium, 5% of the magnesium, and 10% of the potassium you need every day.

• Consuming flaxseed in a variety of foods was linked to a reduction in both systolic blood pressure (when the heart contracts) and diastolic blood pressure (when the heart relaxes) over six months in people with hypertension, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Hypertension. Even when study participants took blood pressure medication, they experienced a benefit from flaxseed. It's not clear what in flaxseed may be responsible for the blood pressure reduction, but it may be any or all of these four compounds: alpha linolenic acid, lignans, peptides and fiber.

• Dark chocolate or cocoa products which is rich in flavanols was linked with some reduction in systolic or diastolic blood pressure among people with hypertension or pre-hypertension.

• Spanish researchers compared a diet of polyphenol-rich olive oil to a diet that didn't contain any polyphenols and their effects on blood pressure over a period of four months. The results: The polyphenol-rich olive oil was linked with drops in systolic and diastolic blood pressure—especially among women with higher blood pressure to start.

• Researchers in Australia observed a reduction in systolic blood pressure six hours after participants drank beet juice, especially among the men. Beets naturally contain nitrates, which ease blood pressure.

• Consuming more than a cup of pomegranate juice every day for four weeks was linked to a drop in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, according to the study results, published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition.

• Eating fatty fish which is high in Omega 3 oil such as salmon (but not leaner fish, such as cod) three times a week was linked with a reduction in diastolic blood pressure over eight weeks.

• Drinking three daily servings of hibiscus tea over the course of six weeks changed blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension or mild high blood pressure. Both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were lower, especially in people with higher systolic blood pressure to start. Hibiscus tea is loaded with antioxidants, including phenols and anthocyanins, which might explain the effect.

• Learn to cook with herbs and lemon and consider using Himalayan salt which contains about 84 minerals.

• Brown seaweed contains an incredible amount of minerals. In addition it contains nutrients not found in land based plants such as fucoidan which in multiple studies has been shown to have anti-inflammatory [6] and anti-oxidative [8] properties but also robustly induces vasodilation. [4] In addition it lowers cholesterol [9] and blood sugar [5] and improves obesity. [7,10,11,12] Great new for those with cardiovascular disease or diabetes who suffer from metabolic syndrome.

Some forward thinking doctors are now recommending L-arginine to their patients to lower blood pressure without the side effects. L-arginine is an amino acid and can be purchased over the counter and it is found in many foods including meats, seafood, spinach and seaweed. [13,14,15] L-arginine not only lowers blood pressure but enhances weight loss and may help in sexual performance. [16] Work with your doctor or naturopath for managing your blood pressure with L-arginine.

1. Dangers of High Blood Pressure Medication
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26356801
3. ABC News: Popular Blood Pressure Drugs Linked to Cancer
4. NCBI: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.
13. Foods highest in Arginine
14. 10 Healthy High Arginine Foods
15. Foods High in L-Arginine
16. Arginine: Heart Benefits and Side Effects
17. Drugs.com