Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE) Inhibitors for High Blood Pressure
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How It Works
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)
inhibitors block an enzyme needed to form a substance that narrows blood
vessels. As a result, blood vessels relax and widen, making it easier for blood
to flow through the vessels, which reduces blood pressure. These medicines also
increase the release of water and sodium to the urine, which also lowers blood
ACE inhibitors can be used alone or in combination with
a diuretic or other medicines.
Why It Is Used
These medicines are used alone for
high blood pressure, or they are used with other
medicines such as a diuretic.
- ACE inhibitors are a good choice for people who have had a
heart attack, because the medicine helps reduce the workload on the heart.
- ACE inhibitors are a good choice for people who have
diabetes, because this medicine does not affect blood sugar
levels and may help protect the kidneys. If you have diabetes, you may take these medicines if you do not have high blood pressure but have small amounts of protein in your urine (microalbuminuria), an early sign of kidney damage.
- ACE inhibitors may also help to prevent a heart attack or stroke.footnote 1
How Well It Works
ACE inhibitors can reduce blood
pressure in people who have high blood pressure. ACE inhibitors can also help prevent a heart attack or stroke.footnote 1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don’t feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
- Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
- Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
- If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
- Trouble breathing.
- Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
Call your doctor if you have:
- Irregular heartbeats (this could be caused by too much potassium in your blood).
- Dizziness or lightheadedness or fainting.
Common side effects of this medicine include:
- Dry cough.
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug
Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
ACE inhibitor cough
A cough is one of the most
common side effects of ACE inhibitors. But most people do not get a cough. The cough tends to be a minor
problem for most people who have it. They feel that they can live with it in exchange for the benefits of this medicine.
If you take an ACE inhibitor and have a problem with coughing, talk with your doctor. Your cough may be caused by something else, like a cold. Do not stop taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.
If you have a cough that is a problem for you, then your doctor might give you an angiotensin II receptor blocker (ARB) instead. ARBs are less likely to
cause a cough.
Interactions with other medicines
ACE inhibitors may interact with other medicines
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
antacids, potassium supplements, certain diuretics, and lithium. If you are
taking one of these medicines, talk with your doctor before you take an ACE
For tips on taking blood pressure medicine, see:
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don’t take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.
You may have regular blood tests to monitor how the medicine is working in your body. Your doctor will likely let you know when you need to have the tests.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Current as of:
October 5, 2017