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
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
Examples: Furosemide (Lasix), Bumex (Bumetanide), Hydrochlorthiazide
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
Side effects: low blood pressure (hypotension), dizziness, abnormally high heart
rate (tachycardia), headache
Examples: Hydralazine, Isosorbide Dinitrate, Nitroglycerin
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