Calcium channel blockers are prescription medications that relax blood vessels and increase the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart while also reducing the heart's workload. Examples of calcium channel blockers include:
- Amlodipine (Norvasc)
- Bepridil (Vascor)
- Diltiazem (Cardizem, Cardizem CD, Cardizem SR, Dilacor XR, Diltia XT, Tiazac)
- Felodipine (Plendil)
- Nicardipine (Cardene, Cardene SR)
- Nifedipine (Adalat, Adalat CC, Procardia, Procardia XL)
- Nisoldipine, (Sular)
- Verapamil (Calan, Calan SR, Covera-HS, Isoptin, Isoptin SR, Verelan, Verelan PM)
For What Conditions Are They Prescribed?
Below are heart conditions that calcium channel blockers might be prescribed for:
- High blood pressure (especially in African Americans)
- Coronary artery disease
- Coronary spasm
- Angina (chest pain)
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Diastolic heart failure (preserved left ventricular function)
- Raynaud’s syndrome (a circulatory problem affecting blood vessels in the hands and feet)
- Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the arteries of your lungs)
If you have systolic heart failure, then amlodipine and felodipine are the only calcium channel blockers that should be used.
Calcium channel blockers are also used to prevent migraine headaches.
How Should I Take Them?
Calcium channel blockers should be taken with food or milk. Follow the label directions on how often to take it. The number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and how long you need to take it will depend on the type of medication prescribed and on your condition.
While taking this medication, have your blood pressure checked regularly, as advised by your doctor.
While taking this medication, your doctor may tell you to take and record your pulse daily. Your doctor will tell you how rapid your pulse should be. If your pulse is slower than advised, contact your doctor or nurse about taking your calcium channel blocker that day.
What Are the Side Effects?
Side effects of calcium channel blockers can include:
- Low blood pressure
- Slower heart rate
- Swelling of feet ankles and legs
- Increased appetite.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Tenderness or bleeding of the gums.
- Sexual dysfunction
Let your doctor know if these side effects are persistent or severe. Contact your doctor right away if you are experiencing:
Do They Have Food and Drug Interactions?
Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while taking a calcium channel blocker.
Avoid alcohol, as it interferes with the effects of calcium channel blockers and increases the side effects.
It is important that your doctor is aware of all the medications you are taking, as some may have the potential to interact with calcium channel blockers. Talk to your doctor before taking any new medication, including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and supplements.
Can Pregnant Women Take Them?
Calcium channel blockers can be used during pregnancy to manage high blood pressure and preeclampsia. However, you should always consult with your doctor before taking calcium channel blockers during pregnancy.
These drugs may pass into breast milk, but no adverse effect on breastfed infants has been found. Discuss the risks and benefits of using calcium channel blockers while breastfeeding with your doctor.
Can Children Take Them?
The safety of calcium channel blockers in children has not been established; however, no problems have been found to date. Discuss the risks and benefits of giving your child calcium channel blockers with your child's doctor.
Can Elderly People Take Them?
Older adults have more side effects from calcium channel blockers than younger people. As a result, lower doses are frequently prescribed.