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Taking Calcium-Channel Blockers

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 17 May 2013 | comments*Discuss
Heart Cardiac Hypertension Beta-blockers

Calcium channel blockers are a group of medications given in the treatment of certain cardiac conditions or those of the circulatory system.

How Do They Work?

Calcium channel blockers work predominantly on the muscle cells of the heart and the blood vessels. In order for the heart muscle and the walls of the vessels to work efficiently they must contract to push the blood around the body. To be able to contract the cells need calcium. Calcium channel blockers work by stopping the calcium entering the cells and therefore preventing this action. Reducing the amount of calcium taken up by the cells allows the vessels and heart muscles to stay more relaxed.There are a variety of different calcium channel blockers all working on different parts of the circulatory system as they target different cells.

Indications For Use

Calcium channel blockers are often given in the treatment of angina as they help prevent the heart from contracting too forcefully, therefore reducing it’s workload.They are also given for a range of disorders affecting the blood vessels, such as high blood pressure, Raynaud’s disease and coronary artery disease. The vessel's walls are kept more relaxed, allowing the blood to flow more freely within them.

Though they are frequently and most usually given to treat high blood pressure, or hypertension, the first choice of drug continues to be beta-blockers, with calcium channel blockers being given to those for whom beta-blockers are not recommended.

Side Effects and Contraindications

Many of those taking calcium channel blockers will experience no side effects, but as they are often given in conjunction with other medications, any side effects that occur may be due to these drugs as opposed to the calcium channel blockers.

Occasionally, due to the action of the drugs on the blood vessels, individuals may feel flushed or have slight headaches, this should subside or can indicate a reduced dose if needed.Interferences with gastro-intestinal function has been reported, with particular reference to constipation and this can be relieved by making subtle changes in the diet or taking preparation aimed to relieve constipation.

Other side effects, though very rare, include dizziness, palpitations and nausea. These should be discussed with your GP who may want to change the dose of the prescription.

Calcium channel blockers do not carry many contraindications as they are relatively safe for use by most people. The only definite rules are that the dose should always be taken as directed by the person they are intended for, that the drugs should not suddenly be withdrawn, consultation with your GP is essential before the medication is stopped and that grapefruit juice is avoided at all times due to it’s potential to interfere with the function of the drug.

Caution should be exercised in those who are pregnant, breast feeding, have a history of liver or kidney problems and those who have been told they have had low blood pressure.

Calcium channel blockers are a relatively safe choice of medication given to those who have angina or problems with high blood pressure. They work by preventing the uptake of calcium in the cells, which is needed for the cells to contract.If taken as directed and all effects discussed with the GP, most people will have no problems taking this mediation.

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