Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects millions of Americans, and can lead to fatal heart attacks and strokes. Six major classes of antihypertensive drugs are currently in use: diuretics, beta-blockers (sympatholytics), vasodilators, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, and angiotensin II receptor antagonists. This paper will compare the effects of three of these types of drugs: beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers.
Beta-blockers are used to treat a variety of problems, including high blood pressure, arrhythmia, and angina, and have been shown to reduce the risk of recurrent heart attacks and death in people who have already had a heart attack (Health Beat, 1998). Some experts urge doctors to use beta-blockers for everyone who has survived a heart attack; others believe that the sickest patients, such as those with severe congestive heart failure, should be not be given them because they can sometimes worsen some conditions. As well as lowering blood pressure, beta-blockers cause peripheral vasoconstriction, negative inotropic and chronotropic action on the heart, bronchoconstriction, and accentuation of insulin resistance (Gavras, Manolis and Gavras, 1997).
Beta-blockers are widely used to treat hypertension for several reasons: they are relatively inexpensive; their effectiveness in helping control blood pressure masks their inadequacies in preventing chronic heart disease and cardiovascular mortality over the longterm; and their known cardioprotective benefits in patients who have had a myocardial infarction tempts clinicians to prescribe them as first-line therapy (Healthy Older Patients, 1998).
Two large studies indicate that tens of thousands of lives could be saved in the United States every year if more people were prescribed beta-blockers such as propranolol and atenolol after having a heart attack (Health Beat, 1998). Researchers at the Un...