Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. This group of diseases is caused by high blood pressure and cholesterol that can severely increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or coronary artery disease. High cholesterol and blood pressure, or hypertension, are linked. Cholesterol can build up on the walls of arteries, preventing the normal flow of blood leading to high blood pressure.
There are many effective prescription drugs on the market to treat hypertension and high cholesterol. These drugs are used in combination with dietary changes and exercise to reduce the risk of an adverse cardiovascular event. The following medications are the top FDA-approved prescription drugs used to treat hypertension and high cholesterol. Typically, these drugs must be taken life-long to keep these conditions under control.
Chlorthalidone belongs to the class of diuretic drugs or ‘water pills’ that cause the kidneys to get rid of excess water and salt through urine. This medication is used to treat high blood pressure and excess fluid build-up in the body caused by problems in the heart, liver and kidneys. Chlorthalidone is recommended as a first-line treatment for hypertension because it can significantly reduce death due to heart attack or stroke by relaxing blood vessels and lowering blood pressure. Common side effects include dizziness, lightheadedness, upset stomach, frequent urination and dehydration. Generic chlorthalidone is available for purchase.
Hydrochlorothiazide is the most commonly prescribed thiazide diuretic drug prescribed to treat high blood pressure. This medication is one of the first-line treatment drugs for high blood pressure. It is also used to treat fluid retention in the body caused by problems in the heart, kidneys or liver. Like the other diuretics, hydrochlorothiazide enables the kidneys to get rid of excess water and salt through urine. Side effects include increased urination, diarrhea, headache and dizziness. In some cases, impaired kidney function can occur. Many generic versions of hydrochlorothiazide are available and it is also available as a fixed dose single pill in combination with other drugs used to treat high blood pressure.
Indapamide is a thiazide-like diuretic used to treat high blood pressure and edema due to heart failure. It has been found to significantly reduce the occurrence of stroke in patients with hypertension. Side effects associated with taking indapamide are dizziness, headache and dehydration. The thiazide-like diuretics are often prescribed in combination with other medications for the treatment of hypertension. Indapamide, along with chlorthalidone, are considered to be more effective in lowering blood pressure and in reducing the risk of a cardiovascular event compared to hydrochlorothiazide. Generic indapamide is also available.
Similar to other diuretic drugs, metolazone is a first-line treatment choice for hypertension and it is also used to treat excessive fluid buildup caused by congestive heart failure. Metolazone is effective alone, but it is usually combined with other anti-hypertensive drugs to treat severe hypertension. This medication has lower kidney toxicity compared to the other thiazide diuretics. Some common side effects include dizziness, headache, constipation, diarrhea and blurred vision. Generic metolazone is available.
Atorvastatin is the most widely prescribed statin in the world and for many years it was the all-time best selling drug. The statin drugs are the first-line treatment for hypertension and atorvastatin is prescribed primarily for this use. It is also prescribed to prevent cardiovascular disease in patients with hypertension. The statin drugs, like atorvastatin, reduce the amount of cholesterol produced by the body by inhibiting the action of an enzyme, HMG co-A reductase that is crucial for its synthesis. The most common side effects reported with taking atorvastatin are diarrhea, heartburn, joint pain, confusion or forgetfulness. Lipitor is the brand name for generic atorvastatin and many cheaper generic versions are available around the world.
Colesevelam is used to reduce cholesterol levels. Normally, cholesterol is converted into bile acids in the liver and secreted into the intestine to help with digestion of fat. Most of the bile acids are then reabsorbed by the liver through the blood. Colesevelam binds to bile acids and causes them to be excreted in stool instead, forcing the liver to make more bile acids from excess cholesterol. This process lowers cholesterol levels in the blood. Common side effects of taking the drug include constipation, upset stomach, indigestion and headache. Generic versions of brand name WelChol are available as colesevelam.
Ezitimibe is a prescription drug used to lower cholesterol levels. It works by inhibiting the main protein that is responsible for cholesterol absorption from the small intestine. This leads to more cholesterol absorption from the circulation causing there to be lower cholesterol levels in the blood. Usually, ezetimibe is prescribed in combination with a statin drug like atorvastatin or simvastatin to reduce blood pressure. Common side effects from taking ezetimibe are sore throat, headache, joint pain and diarrhea. The medication is also available as a generic formulation.
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