What Are ACE Inhibitors?

ACE inhibitors is the short name for a type of medicines known as ‘angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors’. They’re mostly prescribed to people with high blood pressure.

How Do They Work?

ACE inhibitors work by relaxing your blood vessels. This helps keep your blood pressure levels healthy, reducing it if it’s too high. High blood pressure (hypertension) can lead to heart attacks or strokes if left untreated or uncontrolled. They also reduce the amount of protein in your urine. Protein in your kidneys can be very dangerous.  

Who Can Take ACE Inhibitors?

You should only take a medication like ACE inhibitors if it's prescribed to you by a doctor.

They’re usually prescribed to adults and children over the age of 12, who are struggling with high blood pressure. They work best in people aged 55 or under.

ACE inhibitors are less effective in people over 55 years old, and they don’t work as well for black people.

Who Shouldn’t Take ACE Inhibitors?

ACE inhibitors aren’t recommended for children under 12. They’re also not suitable if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, because it’s possible that they could harm an unborn baby. If you’re sexually active and fertile,make sure to use a reliable form of contraception when you’re taking ACE inhibitors.

Don’t take ACE inhibitors if you’re allergic (hypersensitive) to any of the ingredients listed on the packet.

What Are They Used For?

ACE inhibitors may be prescribed for the following conditions:

  • high blood pressure
  • protein in the urine
  • heart failure
  • kidney problems
  • diabetes

Medication for high blood pressure is only recommended if your blood pressure is very high, and you’re at risk of getting heart attacks or strokes.

Medication for high blood pressure is usually prescribed if lifestyle changes like eating a low-fat diet, cutting down on alcohol and taking regular exercise haven’t succeeded in lowering your blood pressure sufficiently.

Which ACE Inhibitors Are There?

The most common ACE inhibitors you can get are called:

  • lisinopril
  • captopril
  • enalapril
  • fosinopril
  • imidapril
  • moexipril
  • quinapril
  • ramipril
  • perindopril
  • trandolapril
They usually end on ‘-pril’. Your doctor will work out which type is the best for you, depending on your age, lifestyle and symptoms.

How Do You Take ACE Inhibitors?

ACE inhibitors usually come as a tablet or pill. You should take your medication exactly as your doctor has prescribed it to you. Swallow your tablets whole with a drink of water, without chewing or crushing them.

If you miss a pill, vomit or have severe diarrhoea after taking your pill, take the next dose as usual.

You should try to stick to a regular routine and take your medication at the same time every day. If you find that you often forget to take it, setting a reminder can help.

Taking your medication irregularly will make it less effective. Talk to your nurse or doctor if you’re worried you’ve missed too many doses.

Are There Any Side Effects?

The most common side effect from ACE inhibitors is a persistent dry cough (a cough that won’t go away). The best way to treat a dry cough is with over-the-counter cough medicines and by staying hydrated.

If the cough persists your doctor might change your treatment from an ACE Inhibitor to a similar drug, called Angiotensin-2-receptor blocker.

Other possible side effects include:

  • feeling dizzy
  • skin rashes
  • headaches

If any of these side effects are severe or last for a long time, talk to your nurse or doctor.

Do They Interact With Other Drugs?

Some drugs will interact badly with ACE inhibitors and may stop them from working. Your doctor will assess your full medical history and ask you about any other medication you’re currently taking to work out whether they’re suitable for you.

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