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Diuretics are also known as water pills and help eliminate excess fluids from the body.  They cause the kidneys to make more urine and increase the body's excretion of sodium, chloride, and potassium.  Since the use of diuretics can cause potassium levels in the body to be depleted be sure to include foods high in potassium in your diet. 

Diuretics are used to relieve both pulmonary and peripheral edema.  In addition, they may be used to treat hypertension since they dilate blood vessels. 

Side effects: dizziness, severe leg cramps, high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol levels

Examples:  Furosemide (Lasix), Bumex (Bumetanide), Hydrochlorthiazide (HCTZ)

ACE Inhibitors
Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors block the formation of Angiotensin II, a substance that causes constriction of blood vessels.  In this way, ACE inhibitors reduce the strain on the heart.  They relax smaller arteries and lower blood pressure.  For this reason they can cause dizziness.

Side effects: cough, dizziness, worsening of some types of kidney disease

Examples: Captopril, Enalapril, Lisinopril

This group of drugs relaxes blood vessels and lowers the resistance against which the heart has to pump.  Like ACE inhibitors they can cause low blood pressure and dizziness.

Side effects: low blood pressure (hypotension), dizziness, abnormally high heart rate (tachycardia), headache

Examples: Hydralazine, Isosorbide Dinitrate, Nitroglycerin

Beta Blockers
These drugs block the cell response to catecholamines (norepinephrine, epinephrine), compounds that cause the heart to work harder, increase blood pressure, and increase blood flow to muscles.  Catecholamines are responsible for the ``fight or flight" response of the central nervous system. Beta-Blockers may reduce the energy needs of the heart and when tolerated over a long time and may actually improve the function of the heart.

Side effects: decreased ventricular function, slow heart rate; worsening of symptoms due to asthma, peripheral vascular disease, diabetes

Example: Carvedilol (Coreg)

Digitalis increases the strength of the heart's contractions as well as reducing resistance in the blood vessels of the body.  It also decreases heart rate in heart failure patients and may decrease edema. 

Side effects: fatigue, headache, low blood pressure, nausea

Examples:  Digoxin (Lanoxin)

Anticoagulants prevent blood clots from forming in the heart chambers, veins, or arteries.  In small arteries such as the coronary arteries, anticoagulants may prevent clots from forming. Blood clots in these arteries could lead to a myocardial infarction or heart attack.

Side effects: bleeding

Examples:  Coumadin, Aspirin

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