Tips When Considering Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are used most commonly to treat high blood pressure, angina, hypertension, narrowed arteries, Raynaud’s syndrome, cardiomyopathy and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). However, they are also prescribed for subarachnoid hemorrhages, migraines and complications arising from brain aneurysms. These blockers work by reducing blood vessel constriction and calcium levels in the heart, allowing blood to flow freely through the vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure.

Several medications such as Diltiazem and Verapamil will also slow down the heart rate and improve heart pumping. Often doctors prescribe diuretics, beta-blockers or angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors along with this medication to treat high blood pressure.

There are two different types of CCBs: Dihydropyridine and Non-Dihydropyridine. The first type (Amlodipine/Norvasc) does not slow down the heart rate, which makes it safer for people who have already suffered heart failure or slowed heart rates; while the latter (Verpamil/Calan/Isotoptin and Diltiazem/Cardizem) will actually slow the heart, making it a suitable treatment for heart arrhythmias (abnormal heart activity.) Both types of medication are intended to reduce blood pressure and reduce the calcium levels in the heart walls and blood vessels.

The efficacy of these medications has periodically been disputed, but they remain the top considerations for people who have experienced heart failure and artery failure. Sometimes the medicines, like Nicardipine, Diltiazem, Nifedipine, Amlodipine and Verapamil, are prescribed to lower blood pressure, relax the arteries and supply the calcium rich heart muscles with blood.

Other times, combination prescriptions, like Amlodipine with Atorvastatin, are used to lower cholesterol, as well as provide the other heart health benefits. Additionally, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the generic forms of calcium channel blockers are just as effective as name-brand versions.

One precaution to take while on calcium channel blockers is to avoid smoking. Cigarettes increase one’s heart rate, which can interact with the CCBs to cause a rapid heartbeat or heart attack. Also, patients should not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice less than four hours after taking their medication because it may interfere with the body’s calcium absorption and excretion levels. Lastly, those on blood thinners like Plavix may not see results, as CCBs affect their efficacy. All things considered, CCBs are some of the most widely prescribed medications for heart patients.