What Is Lisinopril Used For?

Published February 7th, 2020 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Chris Riley
Updated Date: Jul 7th, 2022

A routine part of every visit to the doctor’s office is getting your blood pressure checked. Why is it so important to measure this body function? 

Blood is the carrier of oxygen and nutrients that are vital to the proper functioning of our organs. Proper flow of blood throughout our circulatory system ensures that our tissues and organs remain healthy. While blood delivers nutrients like hormones and cells important for immunity to the right locations, it also collects toxic waste that is taken to the kidneys and liver for excretion.  Blood helps expel the toxic carbon dioxide that is emitted every time we exhale too. Overall, our bodies cannot function normally without the essential role that blood plays in our circulatory system. 

What keeps blood flowing normally throughout our veins and arteries?  When the heart pumps out blood it creates a pressure that forces blood to move down the arteries. This pressure is maintained by the elastic walls of our arteries that can constrict and expand.  Blood pressure is measured by two numbers- systolic pressure that measures pressure caused by the heart contraction, and diastolic pressure that measures the pressure in the arteries. In a healthy individual, normal blood pressure is in the range of <120 mm Hg systolic and <80 mm Hg diastolic.  When these numbers are higher or lower than the healthy range, this is called hypertension (high blood pressure) or hypotension (low blood pressure). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in every three Americans has hypertension. Among this population, it is also estimated that only half have their blood pressure under control. Both adults and children can develop hypertension and it can often be symptomless.  

Bringing blood pressure down is important to lower the risk for more serious complications like stroke, heart attack or heart failure. Currently, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, so managing hypertension is important to reduce the risk of heart failure. Certain lifestyle habits like getting regular exercise, finding ways to manage stress, and a healthy diet are recommended for maintaining normal blood pressure. But, if you are diagnosed with hypertension, it is likely that your doctor might put you on a medication, like lisinopril, to treat the condition. After a certain range, even small increases in blood pressure put you at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke, so moderate reductions in blood pressure could have a very significant effect. 

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What is Lisinopril? Lisinopril is a first-line treatment drug recommended for hypertension, but it also has other less well-known uses. Here are the main reasons lisinopril is used for: 

1. Hypertension 

Lisinopril, also known as Prinivil or Zestril, is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, and it is recommended to treat hypertension in adults and children above the age of six. It belongs to the class of Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitor drugs. How does lisinopril work? The ACE inhibitors treat high blood pressure by inhibiting the production of a protein that causes blood vessels to tighten. Instead, by relaxing blood vessels, it allows blood to flow more freely.  Among the ACE inhibitor class of drugs, lisinopril is considered to be relatively well tolerated. This medication is a long-acting drug, meaning that once taken, it is absorbed slowly and its effects last over a long period of time due to the slow release of the active ingredients in the drug. It is also a long-term drug, which means that individuals diagnosed with hypertension may have to take lisinopril for the rest of their lives. Lisinopril can be used alone but sometimes it is used together with other drugs to treat hypertension.  

2. Heart Attack

Lisinopril is prescribed for patients recovering after a heart attack. A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked by a buildup of substances like fat deposits, and cholesterol. Due to this buildup of plaques, the arteries supplying oxygenated blood to the heart can narrow and eventually a blood clot can form from the plaques causing a heart attack. When the heart does not receive oxygen and nutrients, its tissue becomes damaged and can die. Lisinopril is administered to patients within 24 hours of a heart attack to increase survival rates by promoting blood flow through the arteries so the weakened heart does not have as much strain to pump out blood on its own. Lisinopril is usually used together with other classes of cardiovascular drugs that include aspirin, beta-blockers and thrombolytics after a heart attack. 

3. Congestive Heart Failure

Another use of lisinopril is in the treatment of congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure is a chronic condition in which the heart cannot pump blood efficiently. This can be due to many symptoms like high blood pressure or narrowed arteries that prevent normal blood flow. In this condition, the heart muscle becomes weak.  Lisinopril is prescribed for patients with congestive heart failure to help blood flow due to a weakened heart. The Assessment of Treatment with Lisinopril and Survival (ATLAS) study found that high doses of lisinopril significantly reduced mortality rates due to congestive heart failure and was tolerated well by patients.

4. Protecting kidneys in patients with Diabetes and Chronic Kidney Disease

ACE inhibitors such as Lisinopril tablets are also a first-line medication recommended for diabetic patients with hypertension by the American Diabetes Association. Patients with insulin-dependent or non-insulin dependent type II Diabetes Mellitus have a higher risk of renal function complications. The kidneys are a vital organ for eliminating waste from the body by filtering waste products from the bloodstream into the bladder that are then excreted through urine. In diabetes, high glucose levels in combination with hypertension can damage the filtering units of the kidneys. This results in impaired kidney function. In this condition, called diabetic nephropathy, there is increased excretion of albumin and proteins in the urine (‘proteinuria’) due to inefficient filtering by the kidneys. Lisinopril is prescribed to patients to protect the kidneys from kidney disease or similar symptoms by reducing the number of proteins that are excreted with the urine. 

5. Migraines

Migraines are severe headaches that are often accompanied by nausea and light sensitivity.  Lisinopril has been indicated for the prevention and treatment of migraines at a low daily dose. Clinical studies have reported that daily use of lisinopril tablets significantly reduced the frequency of migraine attacks. However, patients reported undesirable side effects, limiting its potential use as a standard treatment measure for migraines. 

Other Health Benefits of Lisinopril

There are some interesting links to the long-term use of lisinopril and other potential health benefits. The EUCLID controlled trial of lisinopril in Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (EURODIAB) clinical trial found a significant reduction in the progression of retinopathy in patients with insulin-dependent Diabetes Mellitus II, even without hypertension being present in some patients. As diabetic retinopathy caused by damage of the blood vessels in the light-sensitive retina of the eyes is a serious concern for patients with diabetes, this unexpected effect of lisinopril indicates the possibility of its use to directly treat this condition. It’s always best to check with your doctor on when to take lisinopril before moving forward. 

Possible Contraindications

Like all medications, the use of lisinopril can come with its share of possible complications. A common belief is that all inhibitors, like lisinopril, may cause kidney problems. Once ingested, lisinopril is metabolized by the kidneys. This means that higher doses of lisinopril could have the possibility of causing kidney problems in certain individuals that are at a higher risk for this. Your doctor is likely to recommend starting a lower dose and regularly monitoring kidney health to prevent kidney failure from occurring. 

There are also several conditions in which lisinopril should not be used. Pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant should not take lisinopril. This medication is under the highest risk category for an unborn child. While mild to moderate side effects are not uncommon when taking lisinopril, individuals with a history of angioedema (swelling of the lower layer of skin, often seen in the facial area like the tongue) should not take lisinopril. Alternative options are available for these patients and can be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Your doctor will also decide whether lisinopril is right for you based on your individual background. Several studies have shown that inhibitors, like lisinopril, are not as effective in African American patients with hypertension. Instead, calcium blockers and diuretics are more effective in these populations.  One reason for this is because ACE inhibitors work by inhibiting the production of an enzyme in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system that controls blood pressure. African Americans already have lower levels of renins, so drugs like lisinopril that target this system are not as effective. Variation in individual response to lisinopril has been observed within this population too though, so your doctor will determine whether you could benefit from taking lisinopril. Learn about the common side effects of lisinopril to avoid complications or an allergic reaction.

How to get Lisinopril

Remember when getting your prescription, that lisinopril is also known by the names Prinivil and Zestril. A prescription is necessary to purchase lisinopril for whichever condition it is needed for. If you’ve been prescribed this medication, you can pick up lisinopril from almost any pharmacy with your prescription. With a long-term drug like lisinopril, how to save on the cost of medication is something to consider. Even with insurance, co-pays for certain medications can be high.  Coupons for prescription medications are available from USA Rx that could save you more than with just your regular health insurance. A free general pharmacy discount card available here can also save you money on all FDA-approved drugs, including lisinopril. 

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