3 ACE Inhibitor Side Effects: Should You Seek Out Alternatives?

ACE inhibitors come with significant risks and can cause many adverse effects. Learn more about ACE inhibitor side effects here.

ace inhibitor side effects

ACE inhibitors "make your heart work less hard by lowering your blood pressure," according to U.S. National Library of Medicine. "This keeps some kinds of heart disease from getting worse." Ace inhibitor side effects can include chronic cough as well as angioedema, the build-up of fluid in areas like the lips, tongue, larynx, and intestines..

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If you have high blood pressure, most conventionally trained doctors will prescribe you any number of commonly used blood pressure medications. These include diuretics, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors. But be aware of the potential risks associated with these medications that your doctor might not be telling you. ACE inhibitor side effects can range from a persistent, chronic cough to dangerous elevations in potassium.

How do ACE inhibitors work? ACE inhibitors help to lower blood pressure by blocking the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE). Angiotensin is a chemical that constricts blood vessels, which raises blood pressure. ACE inhibitors work by causing the body to produce less of this blood pressure-raising chemical.

ACE Inhibitor Side Effects Can Include Chronic Cough

Do you have a persistent cough that just won’t go away and has no obvious cause? It could be caused by your ACE-inhibitor prescription.

One in four people on ACE inhibitors may develop a dry cough, often associated with tickling or scratching in the throat.[1,2] For some people, the coughing can be so severe that it causes the person to get sick or pass out. Researchers believe that ACE inhibitors induce cough because the medication causes an accumulation of inflammatory compounds like bradykinin and substance P.[1]

Many patients are not warned that coughing can be a potential side effect of these drugs, and it can be hard to associate the coughing with the use of the medication; it can take weeks or months after beginning the medication for symptoms to develop.[1] Fortunately, in the majority of cases, the cough will completely disappear—and quickly—if the ACE inhibitor is stopped. Discontinuing ACE inhibitor medication is the only uniformly effective treatment for this side effect.[1]

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ACE Inhibitors and Angioedema

Although it is one of the more rare side effects of ACE inhibitors, angioedema is also one of the most dangerous. Angioedema is the build-up of fluid in areas like the lips, tongue, larynx, and intestines. It frequently occurs more than six months after starting ACE inhibitor treatment.[3] (This side effect is also due to an accumulation of the compound bradykinin, the same one that causes coughing.)[4]

When angioedema occurs surrounding the airway, it becomes a medical emergency. It can cause the airway to become blocked, leading to asphyxiation.[3] Stopping the use of ACE inhibitors will lead to a resolution of these dangerous adverse effects.

Be Careful of High Potassium Levels

Hyperkalemia refers to elevated potassium levels outside of the normal range. ACE inhibitors interfere with the proper excretion of potassium and can cause anything from a moderate, asymptomatic increase in potassium to extremely high, life-threatening levels.[5]

Elevated potassium can cause such symptoms as confusion, muscle cramps, weakness, and more, along with dangerous cardiovascular effects like palpitations, cardiac arrhythmias, and other dangerous effects. People with diabetes and kidney problems are at an increased risk for hyperkalemia; ACE inhibitors may be particularly risky for these people.[5,6]

Replace ACE Inhibitors with Natural Alternatives to Lower Blood Pressure

Other common side effects of ACE inhibitors include weakness, dizziness, fatigue, rash, headaches, sleep problems, and more.[2] But remember, these ACE inhibitor side effects can be avoided if you turn to natural, effective options for treating your high blood pressure instead.

Before discontinuing your medication, however, talk to your doctor and discuss the option of trying an alternative treatment plan. It is very dangerous to stop taking these drugs without medical supervision.

Our expansive collection of articles on high blood pressure can help you discover a variety of helpful strategies for lowering your blood pressure naturally, which include eating more polyphenol-rich berries and incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine.

Share Your Experience

Do you have high blood pressure? Have you ever experienced any of these ACE inhibitor side effects? Share your tips for managing high blood pressure naturally in the comments section below.

[1] Chest. 2006 Jan;129(1 Suppl):169S-173S.

[2] Mayo Clin Health Lett. 2013 Jan;31(1):7.

[3] J Pharm Pract. 2014 Oct;27(5):461-5.

[4] Am J Med. 2015 Feb;128(2):120-5.

[5] Cardiovasc Ther. 2012 Jun;30(3):e156-66.

[6] Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2014 Oct;13(10):1383-95

Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.

  • Hildegardt V.

    I have been taking coQ10′, hawthorn , b6 b12, vit D , omega3, and magnesium everyday for months. Also tried Celery seed, but nothing helps my blood pressure. It is out of control . Most mornings it is between 202 up to 220 and diastolic 85 to 95. I saw Doc yesterday it was 199 / 118. She changed my meds. I just hope and pray it will come down now. I weigh 164 lbs and my body fat is 26. I do need to lose a little weight so hope I will get information to help me from this site. For breakfast I have Quaker oats with a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper, cinnamon and honey. I have a hot chocolate drink.

  • Greg H.

    Excellent information, Chelsea, thank you.

    Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) can also cause hyperkalemia (too much potassium), as I found out for myself the hard way. After being diagnosed with sky-high blood pressure and prescribed an ARB (along with a couple of other Big Pharma poisons) to treat it, I also started making some pretty significant changes in my diet, hoping to improve my health across the board.

    After a few months I started developing telltale symptoms of hyperkalemia, which I diagnosed for myself by reading up on the meds I was taking and looking at the nutritional content of all the healthy foods I was eating, many of which happened to be excellent sources of potassium. When I brought this concern to the attention of my doctor, you might think he would have told me to try backing off on the dosage of my meds now that I was eating better; but nooo, what he told me I should do was to stay on the full dose of meds, which I would need to take for the rest of my life, and just back off on eating so much of the “problematic” healthy foods if I thought they were causing symptoms.

    At that point, over three years ago now, I fired my doctor (a cardiologist), gradually weaned myself off all the meds, and kept on eating the healthiest diet I could.

    Fast forward to today: I have been taking absolutely no meds at all for three years, I am eating a really healthy, all natural foods diet, and my blood pressure now runs about 110/65.

    And by the way, do you remember that link that Chelsea provided to the free “Top 8 Foods” article? Well I checked it out for myself just now, and by an amazing “coincidence” seven of those foods just happen to be regular staples in my own diet today. Go figure.

    I have come to be a firm believer in what Hippocrates said, and sadly very few doctors in America seem to believe today, “Let food be thy medicine.” I now know that it’s all I need.

  • Donald W.

    A cardiologist started me on a Linsinopril 5mg twice a day to a mother drug of 10mg I was already had been taking for years. Long story short with in two years I almost doubling,t walk which was supposed to be caused by pinched near enough tin my back and with a lot of different treatments and drugs was only getting so much pain I was beginning to not be able to hardly walk. BUT a week ago to daydec20 2016 I was rushed to the hospital not being able to swallow and breath and after 14 hours of treatment in MICU recovered now knowing I can ever take Aceinhibiters again and as of two days later am up walking again with only a little musel pain and to day I almost have no pain related to so called nerve pain So you tell me what you think. It is really so hard for me why this was not discovered be fore it dam near killed me. So beware of Linsinopril if you are on it

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