Actions and Uses
Antihypertensives are used to treat high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Early dectecion of hypertension can greatly improve a patients prognosis, although severely elevated blood pressure can become fatal. Although hypertension has no cure, there are precautions one can take to control it, antihypertensives can greatly help out the work load of the heart by opening up and widening the blood vessels. Drug therapy usually begins with a diuretic, beta-adrenergic blocker, vasodilators or ACE inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers. Changes in diet and lifestyle my include weight loss, exercise and restriction of sodium and saturated fat intake.
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Side Effects and Adverse Effects
Allergic reaction
Low blood pressure
Abnormal heart rhythm
Dizzyness or lightheadness
Increased sensitivity to sunlight causing a sun burn or rash
Abdominal discomfort, nausea, or diarrhea
Shallow or dry cough, especially using ACE inhibitors
Swelling in the legs

Nursing Implications
Knowing the patients medical history, or if they have a family history of high blood pressure could help in knowing the underlying cause. Other tests that could help indetify cardiovascular damage are an ECG, or a chest X-Ray which check for cardiomegaly or ischmia. If BUN and creatinine levels are elevated past the normal range it could suggest renal disease. Checking the serum potassium levels, if levels are less then 3.5 mEq/L it may indicate adrenal dysfunction. Patient should also be evaluated for blood pressure under 140/90 mm Hg at rest, and be able to tolerate activity.

Sources
Cahill, M. (Ed.). Illustrated Handbook of Nursing Care. (1998). Cardiovascular Care. (1st ed., Springhouse: Springhouse Corporation.