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    Calcium Channel Blockers for Heart Failure


    Generic Name Brand Name
    amlodipine Norvasc
    diltiazem Cardizem, Dilacor, Taztia, Tiazac
    nifedipine Procardia
    nisoldipine Sular
    verapamil Calan, Verelan

    How It Works

    Calcium channel blockers slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.

    Calcium channel blockers slow your heart rate by blocking the number of electrical impulses that cause the heart muscle to contract and pump blood.

    Calcium channel blockers help lower your blood pressure by relaxing the muscle tissue in your blood vessels. This makes it easier for blood to flow through the vessels.

    Why It Is Used

    Calcium channel blockers may be used to treat diastolic heart failure. Diastolic heart failure happens when your heart has a hard time filling with blood.

    Calcium channel blockers may help your heart fill with blood more easily by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. When your heart beats more slowly, it has more time to fill between each heartbeat. Calcium channel blockers may also help your heart muscle to relax, which can help your heart fill with blood. Lower blood pressure may help treat diastolic heart failure because your heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood.

    Calcium channel blockers usually are not used for systolic heart failure, in which the heart has a hard time pumping out blood.

    How Well It Works

    Calcium channel blockers might help relieve symptoms of diastolic heart failure. They can help treat other health problems you might have, such as high blood pressure.1

    Side Effects

    All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

    Here are some important things to think about:

    • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
    • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
    • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

    Call911or other emergency services right away if you have:

    Call your doctor right away if you think your heart failure is getting worse. Symptoms include:

    Call your doctor if you have:

    Common side effects of this medicine include:

    See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

    What To Think About

    Your doctor may ask you to take your pulse regularly to make sure your heart rate is not too slow. To learn how to take your pulse, see Taking a Pulse (Heart Rate) slideshow.gif.

    Taking medicine

    Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

    There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

    For tips on taking medicine for heart failure, see:

    actionset.gif Heart Failure: Taking Medicines Properly.

    Advice for women

    If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


    Your doctor will watch you carefully if you take a calcium channel blocker for systolic heart failure. These medicines can sometimes make heart failure worse because they make it harder for your heart to pump blood. Regular checkups and follow-up appointments are important.

    Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

    Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.


    1. Yancy CW, et al. (2013). 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the management of heart failure: A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(16): e147-e239.

    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
    Specialist Medical ReviewerMargaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy

    Current as ofMarch 12, 2014

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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