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Some classes of blood-pressure drugs do more harm than good

High blood pressure is a common medical condition. Also called hypertension, it affects roughly one in three Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And seventy percent of sufferers take medication for it.

Yet two classes of drugs commonly used to treat hypertension might actually be doing more harm than good, according to a recent study from the Medical Center Heart Institute. These medications include:

  • Alpha-2 agonists such as Atipamezole (Antisedan), Clonidine (Catapres) and Guanabenz (Wytensin), which work on the sympathetic nervous system, inhibiting the brain's signals to constrict blood vessels.
  • Alpha blockers such as Alfuzosin (Uroxatral), Doxazosin (Cardura). Terazosin (Hytrin) and Prazosin (Minipress), which work by dilating the blood vessels themselves.

Why these medications might be dangerous

Effective hypertension medications should do more than just lower your blood pressure. They should also stabilize it. Research has linked extreme swings in blood pressure to a higher risk of death.

The study mentioned above found that patients taking alpha-2 agonists and alpha blockers had greater variability in blood-pressure readings between doctor visits. This instability puts patients at risk.

Finding the right treatment

If you suffer from high blood pressure, don't give up on medication entirely, and certainly don't stop taking your prescriptions before consulting with your doctor. The effects of individual drugs vary from person to person. Close monitoring is thus essential to determining what works.

Untreated, hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and other serious health issues. Keeping it under control means finding the right treatment to both lower and stabilize your blood pressure.

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