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How safe are ACE inhibitors?

Howard E. Lewine, MD
Hospitalist
In general, ACE inhibitors are quite safe.

ACE inhibitors lower blood pressure by blocking angiotensin converting enzyme. This enzyme promotes the production of a potent chemical called angiotensin II that makes blood vessels tighter. Taking an ACE inhibitor decreases the amount of angiotensin II in the body. So, blood vessels relax and blood pressure comes down.

The most serious side effect of ACE inhibitors is a high blood potassium level. This can be life threatening. It occurs rarely and almost always in people who have underlying kidney disease.

The most common side effect is a "throat tickle" with a dry cough.

Most other side effects are related to blood pressure getting too low. But this can happen with any blood pressure medication.

ACE inhibitors have been around for a long time and so far have not been associated with long term problems. In fact, taking an ACE inhibitor decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. It also can help prevent deterioration of kidney function in people with diabetes.
Harvard Medical School Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease

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Harvard Medical School Heart Disease: A guide to preventing and treating coronary artery disease

Most people who develop heart disease at least 8 in every 10 have one or more major risk factors that are within their power to change. These include lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.