Ask the Expert: How Do Anti-Hypertensive Drugs Work?


Recently, I started taking medicines to lower my high blood pressure. Can you tell me more about these anti-hypertensives and how they work?


Anti-hypertensives are medicines used to lower high blood pressure. In the long term, uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels of the brain, heart and kidneys – causing stroke, heart failure or kidney failure.

Anti-hypertensives are usually prescribed when other therapies such as diet modification and exercise do not work. There are several types of anti-hypertensive drugs and they work in different ways.

Types of Anti-Hypertensives

  • Beta-blockers reduce the force of the heart beat and the heart’s output of blood
  • Diuretics act on the kidney to reduce blood volume and rid the body of excess fluids and salt
  • ACE inhibitors help to relax blood vessels by blocking an enzyme in the body which is needed to produce a substance that causes blood vessels to contract
  • Vasodilators act directly on muscles in blood vessel walls to make blood vessels widen
  • Calcium channel blockers block the entry of calcium into the muscle cells of the heart and arteries, thus causing the blood vessels to dilate
  • Alpha blockers relax the blood vessels by blocking nerve signals that trigger constriction of blood vessels.

You may have to go through a trial period to see which type of medication works best for you. More importantly, never stop your medication without consulting your doctor, even if your blood pressure is lowered.


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Contributed by the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, the national association of pharmacists in Malaysia,

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