Blood pressure level is an index that measures the extent of struggle or resistance your blood faces to pass into blood vessels. People with normal blood pressure levels may have very little or no resistance in ensuring proper supply of blood to all parts of their body. But, when blood vessels shrink, your blood struggles to find its way through arteries. If this condition is left untreated, it can result in a higher blood pressure. Drugs are available to help reduce your high blood pressure level. Timely medical attention as well as consumption of antihypertensive drugs can protect your kidneys, cardiac health, eyes and nerves. However, such drugs may also trigger a few side effects. You are advised to be aware of the likely side effects before starting a medication plan.
Two essential indices help understand your blood pressure levels better. These are –
A. Diastolic pressure point – It is the pressure at which the heart fills up with blood. It is referred as the minimum point of pressure.
B. Systolic pressure point – This reading denotes at what pressure your heart supplies blood to the rest of the organs. It refers to a maximum point of pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in terms of millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). It is reported in the form of systolic / diastolic. For example: 150 / 95 mm Hg. Readings of blood pressure above 130/80 is generally considered as a hypertensive medical condition. Increase in pressure levels at a very moderate level – i.e., slightly over 120 or below 80 is termed as prehypertension.
The two broad types of hypertension
A large percentage of people living with high blood pressure (as per one estimate – it is reported to constitute nearly 90%) may be having the condition without a known reason or cause. Such a condition is called as essential hypertension. Its incidence can be due to a large number of factors such as – intake of excessive amount of salt, age, dietary habits, lifestyle, etc. A few medical researchers have observed a likely relationship between stress or anxiety, quantum of minerals such as potassium and magnesium, obesity, being diabetic, etc. and the incidence of essential hypertension.
On the other hand, when a solid cause or trigger-point exists for a rise in blood pressure, it is labelled as a secondary form of hypertension. In many instances, people living with kidney problems are known to have this condition. Scientific studies attribute excessive working of your adrenal glands as well as long term use of certain birth control pills as other possible causes.
Signs of hypertension
This medical condition is in general silent i.e., without any noticeable symptoms or signs. For some people, it may remain dormant for decades. But, once the condition reaches a severity-level, it shows up in the form of a few signs. Some of these symptoms and signs include gasping for breath, spells of dizziness, pain in your chest, blurring of eyesight, headache, etc. It is equally important to know that these signs may not occur to all people with hypertension. Hence, expecting these signs to show up can lead to near-fatal or fatal outcomes. There are a few other factors to consider. If your family’s clinical history has cardiac ailments or heart attacks, you are advised to check blood pressure readings at least once in 6 months.
The best way to control hypertension is to detect its incidence at an early stage itself. This can be done through routine checks of your blood pressure level. Upon sensing a raised pressure level, your doctor may advise you to take regular readings. If each of these measurements results in an increased level of blood pressure, a full-fledged treatment plan is started. Approaches taken to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) have multiple routes namely, prescription drugs, workout regimen as well as dietary changes.
Drugs prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure
It may take some time – often, by trying multiple combinations of drugs – to arrive at what kind of drug(s) works best for you. Commonly used drugs for treating high blood pressure are angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibiting medications, alpha-2 agonists, calcium channel blocking drugs, diuretics or water pills, beta blocking medications, angiotensin II receptor blocking (ARB) drugs, etc.
Side effects of blood pressure drugs
No two drugs have the same kind of side effects. Hence, the reactions and side effects each type of drug triggers need to be understood separately.
Beta blocking medications relax your heart muscles and can reduce the pace of heartbeat. As a result, your heart is eased and can work much less to pump the relatively-lower quantity of blood. The common side effects beta blocking medicines trigger include mood swings, depression, respiratory problems, difficulties to fall asleep, erectile dysfunction or male impotence, etc.
ACE inhibiting medications – as its name indicates – control your body from making an enzyme. This enzyme helps in the production of angiotensin – a substance responsible for narrowing the lining of your blood vessels. Thus, these drugs help avoid risks of shrinking of arteries. Most common side effects of these medications are formation of rashes on skin, altered sense of taste, episodes of dry coughing, etc. If spells of coughing persist for long, you are advised to talk to your treating doctor for needful remedies.
Renin inhibiting medications belong to a modern genre of drugs to control high blood pressure. The main function of these drugs is to trigger lesser production of substances that shrink blood-carrying vessels. Commonly experienced side effects are rashes on skin, acid reflux (heartburns), pain in lower abdomen, episodes of coughing, diarrhea, etc.
Water pills or diuretics help reduce sodium levels in your body and thus bring blood pressure levels under control. These pills can lead to frequent needs to urinate, weariness or tiredness (caused due to reduction in potassium levels), cramping of limbs, etc. Some men have also reported problems in their sexual health – especially, inability to have or sustain an erection during a sexual intercourse.
Calcium channel blocking (CCB) drugs deny entry for calcium into your muscles – especially those associated with your heart. Most common reactions or side effects of CCB drugs are swelling (especially of your ankles), feeling drowsy and dizzy, difficulties to pass stool, arrhythmia (erratic heartbeats), sweating, headache, etc.
Angiotensin II receptor blocking (ARB) drugs protect blood-supplying vessels from enzymes that make them to constrict. In other words, these drugs keep your blood vessels in a dilated state for long. These actions help restore normal flow of blood to multiple parts of your body. Side effects these drugs may trigger include drowsiness, dizziness, being lightheaded, etc.
Alpha blocking drugs help change a few nerve functions. The restricted nerves are those known for tightening the vessels supplying blood. These drugs help relax such nerves and help restore normal supply of blood to all parts of the body. Common side effects include irregular heartbeats (mostly, at a faster rate), weariness, drowsiness, etc.
Central agonist-medications influence impulses of your nerves and leads to relaxation of vessels carrying blood. Generally experienced side effects are insufficient production of red blood cells (resulting in anemia or other blood related disorders), dryness of mouth, problems in sustaining an erection (i.e., male impotence), difficulties to pass stool, etc.
Vasodilating drugs let better supply of blood by relaxing the muscles on the walls or linings of vessels supplying blood. These drugs are known to trigger a few reactions or side effects; key side effects are retention of body fluids, headache, sudden growth of hair, sweating, palpitation, etc.
Adrenergic inhibiting (peripheral) drugs work on a few neurotransmitters. These drugs ensure that signals to constrict your blood vessels do not reach their destination. Thus, muscular linings on the walls of vessels remain relaxed without risks of constriction. Side effects these drugs may cause are sexual health problems such as male impotence, blocking of nasal pathways, acid reflux, loosening of stool or diarrhea, weariness and drowsiness. Of all these side effects, you may feel excessive drowsiness or dizziness in the morning hours. This is often linked to a low level of blood pressure during such times.
Alpha-Beta blocking drugs work by slowing down the rate of your heartbeat as well as by controlling nerve-level impulses to shrink blood vessels. These are often prescribed to those who have experienced heart failures (especially, of the congestive genre). A major side effect of these drugs is the marked decrease in blood pressure level (i.e., hypotension) experienced as soon as you wake up in the mornings. This condition may lead to other related discomforts such as weariness, feeling excessively tired as well as drowsy.
Alpha-2 receptor agonists reduce your body’s ability to produce adrenaline. It is done by influencing the nerves whose impulses are a prerequisite for the functioning of your adrenal glands. The most common side effects caused by alpha-2 receptor agonists include feeling dizzy, an excessive spell of drowsiness, etc.
In sum, your treating doctor will try multiple combinations of medicines before zeroing-in what works best for your present medical condition. Commonly prescribed blood pressure medications include ACE inhibiting drugs, CCB drugs, water pills, beta blockers, ARBs, alpha-2 agonists, etc. As each of these families of drugs may have distinctive side effects, you are advised to talk to your doctor about the reactions each may trigger. If dizziness and excessive drowsiness persist for long, it may be due to a spell of hypotension. Your doctor may provide needful countermeasures to help manage such medical conditions. Also, it is highly recommended to stay aware of major reactions and side effects. Never hesitate to seek medical attention or call 911 if you experience respiratory problems, inflammation or an extremely severe spell of dizziness.