Common Types of BP Medications

Let’s sort through some of the major types of commonly prescribed cardiovascular medications.

Many blood pressure (BP) medications, known as anti-hypertensives, are prescribed to lower high blood pressure (also known as hypertension). There are a variety of classes of BP medications, which include a number of different drugs.

Below are summaries of some of the major types of commonly prescribed medications, as provided by the American Heart Association (AHA). 


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.

ACE inhibitors

ACE (Angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors help the body produce less angiotensin, which helps the blood vessels relax and open up. In turn, this lowers blood pressure.


ARBs (Angiotensin II receptor blockers)

These drugs block the effects of angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow. Angiotensin needs a receptor- like a chemical “slot” to fit into or bind with- in order to constrict the blood vessel. ARBs block the receptors so the angiotensin fails to constrict the blood vessel. This means blood vessels stay open and blood pressure is reduced.


Calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and arteries. They relax and open up narrowed blood vessels, reduce heart rate and lower BP.


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

Alpha Blockers

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

Alpha-2 Receptor Antagonists

These drugs reduce BP by decreasing the activity of the sympathetic (adrenaline-producing) portion of the involuntary nervous system.

Combined Alpha & 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 BP use if the patient is at risk for heart failure.


Central Antagonists

Similar to alpha and beta-blockers, central agonists help decrease the blood vessels’ ability to tense up or contract. However, the central agonists follow a different nerve pathway, but accomplish the same goal of BP reduction.

Peripheral Adrenergic Inhibitors

These reduce BP by blocking neurotransmitters in the brain. However, these drugs are rarely used unless other medications don’t help.


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

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