Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2023

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are a type of drug prescribed for people with systolic heart failure (HF) caused by left ventricular dysfunction. ARBs can be used by people with systolic HF either with or without symptoms.1-3

Treatment goals of ARBs include:1-3

  • Improved heart function or delayed progression of heart failure
  • Symptom relief
  • Reduced risk of hospitalization for heart failure
  • Reduced risk of death from heart failure

ARBs may be prescribed for people who cannot take ACE inhibitors due to a cough.2

How do ARBs work?

ARBs are a type of medicine known as vasodilators. They work by blocking angiotensin II, a hormone in the body that makes the muscles around your blood vessels tighten (vasoconstriction). This can raise your blood pressure.1-3

By blocking angiotensin II, ARBs widen blood vessels to:1-3

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve blood flow
  • Reduce how hard your heart has to work to pump blood


Commonly prescribed ARBs include:1-3

  • Atacand® (candesartan)
  • Avapro® (irbesartan)
  • Benicar® (olmesartan)
  • Cozaar® (losartan)
  • Diovan® (valsartan)
  • Edarbi® (azilsartan)
  • Micardis® (telmisartan)
  • Teveten® (eprosartan)

What are the possible side effects?

Side effects can vary depending on the specific drug you are taking. The most common side effects of ARBs include:1,2

  • Dizziness
  • High potassium levels (hyperkalemia)
  • Lowered blood pressure

In rare cases, ARBs can affect blood flow to the kidneys. Your doctor will order regular blood tests to check your kidney function.1,2

These are not all the possible side effects of ARBs. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking ARBs. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking ARBs.

Other things to know

Before taking an ARB, tell your doctor if you have:2

  • Low blood pressure
  • Kidney problems

ARBs can harm an unborn baby. If you can become pregnant, you should use birth control during treatment and for some time after the last dose of ARBs. Talk to your doctor about your options for birth control while taking ARBs.1,2

ARBs can raise potassium levels. Do not take potassium supplements or potassium-sparing diuretics (water pills) while taking an ARB. If you are taking an ARB and following a low-sodium diet, you should also avoid salt substitutes that contain potassium chloride.1-3

Before beginning treatment for heart failure, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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