Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Blood pressure medicines

Blood pressure medicines
beginning of content

Blood pressure medication

3-minute read

Blood pressure medicines are used to treat high blood pressure. They are also known as antihypertensives.

If your blood pressure is high, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll need to take blood pressure medicines.

However, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease — such as stroke and heart attack — increases with high blood pressure.

In deciding whether you need antihypertensive medicines, your doctor will check your overall risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 5 years or so.

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use our Risk Checker to find out.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that you regularly review with your doctor or specialist any medications you are taking for high blood pressure or high cholesterol to assess the ongoing benefits and risks.

For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

The higher your risk, the more likely you’ll need medicines.

Usually doctors will start a person on a low dose of a medicine and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work well enough, or if there are troublesome side effects, other medicines will be used, sometimes in combination, until the blood pressure is controlled. This can take time. Some people will take medicines for life, although others will find that continuing to lose weight and change their diet reduces the need for medicines.

Someone whose blood pressure is very high or causing symptoms such as headache, or if they have conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, may need urgent treatment with medicines to bring the blood pressure down to normal levels.

Types of blood pressure medicines

The most common blood pressure medicines are ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and diuretics. Many people need more than one medicine to bring their high blood pressure under control.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs

ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors and ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) work by widening your blood vessels. This reduces the pressure in the vessels and allows blood to flow more easily — making it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.

Calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers stop calcium from entering the heart muscle and blood vessel cells. This widens the blood vessels and relaxes the heart muscle, making it easier for your heart to pump blood around the body.

Beta blockers

Beta blockers work by reducing nerve signals to the heart and blood vessels. This reduces your blood pressure and the amount of work your heart needs to do. Find more on the beta blockers page.


Diuretics are also known as fluid tablets. They work by making you urinate more to get rid of any excess water in your body. When the excess fluid is reduced, the pressure in your blood vessels and heart also lowers.

Lifestyle changes to treat high blood pressure

You may be able to reduce your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease in other ways. Some people are able to reduce their blood pressure without taking blood pressure medicines. It helps to:

Your doctor can give you more specific guidance to suit your needs.

Many people with high blood pressure don’t have any symptoms. It is recommended for all adults to get their blood pressure checked at least every 2 years.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020

Back To Top

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

High blood pressure treatments -

If you have high blood pressure your doctor may recommend lifestyle measures, such as diet and exercise, and possibly also medicines to control your blood pressure. Find out about the different options.

Read more on myDr website

High blood pressure in pregnancy

High blood pressure in pregnancy is a common medical problem that usually disappears after the birth. It may signal a serious condition called pre-eclampsia.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Complications during pregnancy

Some women will experience complications such as bleeding, itching high blood pressure or severe vomiting during pregnancy that will require treatment.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

High blood pressure should be treated -

Having hypertension (high blood pressure) increases your risk of serious conditions such as stroke and heart attack. Find out when to have your blood pressure checked and what to do if yours is high.

Read more on myDr website

Pre-eclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Type 2 diabetes: symptoms, causes and treatment

Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance and often goes hand in hand with obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Read more on myDr website

Avoid alcohol | Stroke Foundation - Australia

Avoid alcohol Alcohol can cause high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Primary Aldosteronism - Hormones Australia

Primary aldosteronism is caused by too much of the hormone aldosterone, resulting in high blood pressure. Primary aldosterone is treated with medication, although sometimes surgery is needed.

Read more on Hormones Australia website

Blood pressure: what is your target? -

Why is blood pressure important? Find out why (and how) doctors measure blood pressure, what's a normal blood pressure reading and what's not, and what to do if you have high blood pressure.

Read more on myDr website

Pulmonary Hypertension - St Vincent's Heart Health

Learn more about pulmonary hypertention, the causes, symptoms, possible tests and treatments.

Read more on St Vincent's Hospital Heart Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.