If you are a patient of hypertension, arrhythmia, and cluster headache then you should need to know about what are Calcium Channel Blockers or CCBs.
So, with this article, we discuss CCBs types, uses, mechanisms of action, what to avoid as well as possible side effects. However, we also discuss a special case— calcium channel blocker for pregnant women, kids, and older people.
What are the Calcium Channel Blockers?
Calcium channel blocker is a group of drugs that are used to reduce the amount of calcium. Calcium channel antagonists or calcium antagonists are the other names of Calcium channel blockers.
CCBs usually blocks calcium that can enter into the muscle cells through tiny pores, especially in the heart and blood vessels. As a result, it would reduce the blood pressure, and your heart doesn’t need to work so hard.
This also prevents your pumping machine from any sort of heart disease. However, it’s main uses are to reduce hypertension, arrhythmia, and cluster headache in the patient.
Example of Calcium Channel Blocker Drug
These are the following examples:
- Amlodipine (Norvasc)
- Nifedipine (Adalat CC, Procardia)
- Verapamil (Calan, Verelan)
- Diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac, others)
Did you know? CCB was first discovered in 1964 at Albrecht Fleckenstein lab— Godfraind’s laboratory— who was a German pharmacologist.
How does Calcium Channel Blocker work?
Calcium channel blockers are used to reduce or slow down the influx of calcium in the heart muscle cells and arteries. With a constant flow of calcium, one can generate a condition where the heart muscles and arteries narrow down.
So, on the administration of CCBs, they usually start their work by blocking or slowing down the entry of calcium into the heart. This exists-out the pressure on narrow blood vessels which makes it easier for the heart to pump blood. And meanwhile, it also relaxes the narrow blood vessels.
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Types of Calcium Channel Blockers
There are a total of two different types of CCBs, these are;
- Dihydropyridines Calcium Channel Blocker
- Non-Dihydropyridines Calcium Channel Blocker
Dihydropyridines Calcium Channel Blocker
These CCBs use the molecules of dihydropyridine to reduce the swelling of blood vessels which finally lowers the blood pressure. However, sometimes it is often used to treat Angina.
As the dilation of blood vessels decreases the blood pressure (hypotension) can lead to reflex tachycardia, which has some harmful impacts on patients with ischemic signs. This would build up a higher oxygen demand.
There are a few examples of dihydropyridine CCBs which include nicardipine, felodipine, nifedipine, amlodipine, and nimodipine.
Note: Sometimes, if the patient overdose with CCBs it might generate a condition where the blood vessels get too much widen. The common system of this condition is swelling in feet and leg area.
Non-Dihydropyridines Calcium Channel Blocker
It is a type of calcium channel blocker in which the blood vessels are widened in the same way as dihydropyridines do. But, NDHP channel blockers have an additional impact i.e. very helpful for controlling a rapid heart rate.
There are two types of non-dihydropyridine medications are currently available, which include verapamil and diltiazem.
These drugs such as Verapamil targets the heart muscle cells and can also be used to treat chest pain due to swelling in blood vessels. It also reduces the widen blood vessels to decrease the oxygen flow to the heart. Moreover, it slows down the abnormal heart rate and also decreases blood pressure.
However, another drug— Diltiazem (Cardizem) had found to be not that effective in lowering the heart rate in comparison with Verapamil (Calan, Isoptin).
Uses of Calcium Channel Blockers
CCBs are specially used by the doctor to treat the condition of high blood pressure. But they can also be used for treating other diseases also, such as:
- Coronary heart disease
- An irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain, or angina
Moreover, scientists are now searching for other uses of calcium channel blockers. For example, scientists believe that CCBs may be able to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
How Should I Take CCBs?
One should take CCBs with food or milk or any prescribed food/drink by the doctor. But, you can also follow the label’s directions on the drug.
The frequency of taking these drugs should only be followed as per the prescription provided by the doctor. Factors that affect the dosages are the number of doses per day, the time between the two doses, and how long you have to take this medicine. In general scenarios, you can take CCBs, before or after the meal, twice a day.
And when you are on the medication, you regularly check with your doctor because longer use can cause some detrimental effects on the body. If the prescribed dosage does not show any improvement, you should consult the doctor for changing the dosage.
Side Effects of Calcium Channel Blockers
These are the list of some of the side effects of using calcium channel blockers drug:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Low blood pressure
- Swelling of ankles, feet, or lower legs
- Dry mouth
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Skin rash
- Constipation or diarrhea
Interactions of CCBs With Food and Drug
These are some food and drug that you should have to avoid during the intake of calcium channel blockers drugs.
- Do not eat or drink grapefruit products
- Avoid alcohol
And in case, you had eaten either of the products then you should seek medical attention as soon as possible because it might cause a heart attack. Also, you should talk to your doctor before taking any new drug, herbs, and supplements.
Special Cases Related to CCBs
Calcium Channel Blocker For Pregnant Woman
During pregnancy, to manage the high blood pressure calcium channel blockers can be used. However, before taking any dose of CCBs, you should first discuss it with your doctor.
And these drugs are also safer to take by the moms who are on breastfeeding. Because, when these drugs pass into breast milk, no adverse effect has been found yet to the breast-feeder (infants). Therefore, it is safer for pregnant women to take such medicines.
Calcium Channel Blocker For Children
From now, there is no viable evidence that relates to the harming nature of CCBs on children. And till now, there is no reported death from the use of these channel blockers by children.
However, as a parent, you should discuss with your doctor about the risks and benefits of calcium channel blockers for your child.
Calcium Channel Blocker For Older People
Doctors usually prescribe low doses of calcium channel blockers because older people have more side effects as compared to younger people.
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Here, we give a short summary of CCBs which includes side-effects, dosage, uses, and what to avoid.
So, calcium channel blocker is a group of drugs that are used to reduce the amount of calcium in the body. It usually enters into the muscle cells through tiny pores, especially in the heart’s muscles and blood vessels. As a result, it will reduce the pressure of the blood, and the heart doesn’t have to work so hard.
CCB is also used to minimize the symptoms of coronary heart disease, irregular heartbeats, migraine, and chest pain, or angina, etc. While, common side effects of calcium channel blockers are abnormal heart rhythms, dizziness, low blood pressure, swelling of ankles, feet, or lower legs, and headache.
However, when you’re on the medication of CCBs, you should avoid grapefruit, grapefruit juice, and alcohol.
Now, these are the following questions that users mostly ask on Google.
What are the two types of calcium channel blockers?
Ans. Dihydropyridines and non-dihydropyridines are the two types of calcium channel blockers.
Why is grapefruit should be avoided with CCBs?
Ans. During the intake of calcium channel blockers, the grapefruit may be avoided because it prevents the breakdown of the drug in the body.
What are the most common side effects of calcium channel blockers?
Ans. The common side effects of calcium channel blockers are abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, headache, Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), nausea, and fatigue.
What is a natural calcium blocker?
Ans. Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker which blocks sodium attachments in the vascular smooth muscle cells of the heart.
When should I take calcium channel blockers?
Ans. It is better to take calcium channel blockers before or after the meal and on a daily basis.