Harvard Heart Letter

Blood pressure drugs with bonus benefits

Both ACE inhibitors and ARBs also help stave off complications from heart failure and kidney disease.

When doctors prescribe drugs to treat high blood pressure, they often turn to two classes of medications: ACE inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs). These drugs are the first-line choice for people who also have diabetes—a common condition that often goes hand in hand with elevated blood pressure. Not only do these medications help prevent heart attacks in people with diabetes, they're also useful for people with weakened hearts and ailing kidneys.

"These two classes of drugs have a 'halo effect,' because they also help lower the risk of heart failure and slow the progression of kidney disease," says Dr. Marc Pfeffer, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The two classes of drugs work in similar ways and have comparable benefits and side effects—with one exception that's an issue for some people. Here's an overview of these two medication mainstays for people with cardiovascular disease.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »