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ARBs (angiotensin II receptor blockers)

ARBs (short for angiotensin II receptor blockers) are mainly used to treat high blood pressure and heart failure. They work as well as ACE inhibitors for treating high blood pressure, but may be a better choice for you if you are having side effects to ACE inhibitors.

How does it work?
ARBs block the action of an enzyme called angiotensin II, which causes your blood vessels to narrow. When you take an ARB, your blood vessels become relaxed, which lowers your blood pressure.

How should I take it?
It is very important to take your ARBs regularly, as prescribed by your doctor. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist to get specific information about how and when to take your medication. With high blood pressure, how you feel is not always a good indicator of whether or not you need your medication. Do not stop taking your medication when your blood pressure becomes normal. You need to keep taking it to control your blood pressure.

What should I avoid while taking this medicine?
Decongestants and many over-the-counter cough and cold products may increase blood pressure. Also, some medications such as ibuprofen can raise your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about these and other things you may need to avoid while taking this medication. ARBs may increase potassium levels, so you should not take potassium supplements unless your physician has determined that you need them.

What if I am taking other medicines?
Some medications, prescription and non-prescription, may interact with ARBs, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any potential interactions. Taking ARBs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen and indomethacin may raise your blood pressure.

Always tell your doctor about any other medication including prescription, non-prescription, over-the-counter or natural health products (vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines such as traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics and other products such as amino acids and essential fatty acids).

What are some common side effects?
Medications that lower your blood pressure may cause dizziness. If you often feel dizzy or lightheaded, it may mean that your blood pressure is too low. Talk to your doctor about any side effects you experience. Sometimes just changing positions slowly from lying to standing (or vice versa) will reduce your dizziness.

Lifestyle changes
Eating a healthy diet that is lower in fat, especially saturated and trans fats, being smoke free, limiting alcohol use, being physically active and reducing stress are also important in lowering the risk of heart disease. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about how you can achieve these lifestyle changes.

For more information
Health Canada provides health and medical information to help Canadians maintain and improve their health. Learn more about Safe Use of MedicinesSafety and Effectiveness of Generic Drugs and Buying Drugs over the Internet.

Drug Product Database provides information about drugs approved for use in Canada.

MedEffect Canada provides safety alerts, public health advisories, warnings and recalls.

Your ministry of health also provides useful health resources in your province or territory. For example, Ontario has a MedsCheck program providing free pharmacist consultations on safety use of drugs. British Columbia has a Senior Healthcare webpage providing information about important health programs.  

Last modified: July 2011
Last reviewed: July 2011