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Calcium Channel Blockers in Cardiac Care

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 13 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Calcium Channel Blockers Calcium Heart

Calcium channels blockers are special medications that are given to many patients suffering with high blood pressure and decrease the chances of suffering from a cardiac episode.

What Exactly are They?

Calcium is an essential mineral necessary for many biological processes including the function of the heart and how effectively it beats.

Calcium is absorbed into the cells of the cardiac muscle (known as smooth muscle) and stimulates the activity within. This activity determines with how much force the muscle contracts during each heart beat. By blocking, or partially blocking the amount of calcium that is being absorbed the level of activity within the cell decreases. The overall effect of this is to decrease the amount of work the heart has to do during each contraction (heart beat) and lessens the pressure at which the blood is pumped out of the heart.

There are many different types of calcium channel blockers and each works to a different degree than the others. Some can help in emergency situations such as heart attack or severe angina whilst others are given to keep angina at bay or too lower blood pressure before any other problems develop; these are known as either fast-acting calcium channel blockers or short acting.

How do They Help Cardiac Patients?

By lowering the force of the heart beat, the heart muscle doesn’t have to work as hard and the demand for oxygen to the coronary arteries is decreased. As the heart works more effectively and less strenuously, the blood being pushed through the blood vessels in the body is slowed which means the blood pressure is lowered; (blood pressure is the force at which the blood is being pushed through the vessel and is measured by the pressure of the blood on the wall of the vessel during the contraction and relaxation stage of each heart beat).

They also have the effect of widening and relaxing the cells of the blood vessel walls to some degree as the calcium is also prevented from entering these cells.

Do They Carry any Side-effects?

Calcium channel blockers can carry some side-effects. If the dose you have been given is slightly too high it can have the potential to cause low blood pressure which can lead to dizziness or fainting. Report any episodes to your GP who may want to amend your dose or changed the drug prescribed.

As the blood pressure drops, so too might the heart rate which can also be dangerous, your doctor will probably want to monitor you closely when you first start taking calcium channel blockers until he or she is happy that you are on the right dose and are not suffering with any dangerous side-effects.

Other side-effects include fluid accumulation in the lower limbs and the potential for enlarged gums or excessive gum overgrowth.

Calcium channel blockers are very effective is the treatment of high blood pressure but may work too well and lower the blood pressure too much so it is important to report to your GP regularly in the first few months to make sure you are taking the right drug at the most beneficial dose.

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