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Drugs & Supplements

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers

Medication names
  • losartan (Cozaar)
  • valsartan (Diovan)
  • candesartan (Atacand)
  • irbesartan (Avapro)
  • telmisartan (Micardis)

Why this medication is prescribed?

An ARB is a type of vasodilator that dilates (widens) the blood vessels to improve the amount of blood the heart pumps. An ARB increases the blood flow, which will decrease the amount of work the heart has to do and may also decrease your blood pressure.

An ARB prevents harmful substances (angiotensin II) from their normal actions in the blood vessels and organs (including the heart). It also decreases certain chemicals that cause salt and fluid build-up in the body.

An ARB is prescribed in systolic heart failure when people cannot tolerate an ACE inhibitor. In diastolic heart failure (when the heart contracts normally but the left ventricle does not relax properly so less blood enters the heart), an ARB can be prescribed as therapy in patients with mild and moderate heart failure.

When to take

An ARB can be taken on an empty or full stomach. Follow the label directions on how often to take this medication. The number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses and how long you need to take the medication will depend on the type of ARB prescribed, as well as your condition. Note: It may take many weeks for you to feel the full effects of the medication.

Special directions

While taking this medication, have your blood pressure and kidney function checked regularly, as recommended by your doctor or nurse.

Food and drug interactions

While taking an ARB, do not use salt substitutes--they contain potassium and an ARB causes the body to retain potassium. Learn how to read food labels to choose low-sodium and low-potassium foods. A dietitian can help you select low-sodium and low-potassium foods.

Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (like ibuprofen or naproxen) and aspirin may cause the body to retain (keep) sodium and water, and decrease the effect of an ARB. Check with your health care provider before taking any anti-inflammatory medications.

Side effects and how to manage them

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or faintness when you get out of bed or rise from a chair— This side effect may be strongest after the first dose, especially if you have been taking a diuretic (water pill). Get up more slowly. Contact your doctor or nurse if these symptoms persist or are severe.
  • Diarrhea, muscle cramps or weakness, back or leg pain, insomnia (difficulty sleeping), sinusitis or upper respiratory infection—Contact your doctor or nurse if these symptoms are persistent or severe.
  • Irregular heartbeat, or fast or slow heartbeat—Contact your doctor or nurse if these symptoms are persistent or severe.
  • Confusion—Contact your doctor or nurse right away.
  • If you become sick with severe vomiting or diarrhea, you may become dehydrated, which can lead to low blood pressure—Contact your doctor or nurse.

Contact your doctor or nurse if you have any other symptoms that cause concern.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 3/20/2006...#12868