Treating High Blood Pressure With Calcium-Channel Blockers
Learn how this type of prescription high blood pressure medication works and discover its possible side effects
Calcium-channel blockers are often prescribed to lower the heart rate and to lower blood pressure. Like beta blockers, calcium-channel blockers may improve blood flow and improve vascular tone through narrowed vessels. Some calcium-channel blockers are even endothelial-cell friendly—that is, they encourage smooth-muscle relaxation in the inner lining of your blood vessels—preventing spasms and helping them dilate, thus effectively lowering blood pressure. A few commonly prescribed calcium-channel blockers include verapamil (Isoptin, Calan SR, and Verelan), amlodipine (Norvasc), felodipine (Plendil), and sustained-release nifedipine (Procardia XL).
Potential Side Effects of Calcium-Channel Blockers
- Ankle swelling
- Bleeding gums
- Lung congestion
- Heart palpitations
- Abdominal cramps
Considerable controversy has arisen regarding an increase in mortality in some patients treated with short-acting calcium-channel blockers, so I recommend that you stick with longer-acting versions for treating high blood pressure. Check with your doctor to make sure you are on long-acting, second- or third-generation calcium-channel blockers. In addition, use caution when you combine calcium-channel blockers with digoxin for the treatment of congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation. Some calcium-channel blockers can increase the digoxin in your blood to dangerous levels, which can cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or “heart block,” a serious condition whereby your heart rate can slow dangerously.
Potential Nutrient Depletion
Nutrient depletion is another common side effect of calcium-channel blockers. Nutrients that may be depleted in the body as the result of taking calcium-channel blockers include magnesium, vitamin B6, potassium, zinc, CoQ10, and folic acid. Consequently, you need to make sure that your supplementation program includes these nutrients, or modify your diet to feature foods that are high in these nutrients.
Good food sources of magnesium include: avocado, wheat germ, almonds, shredded wheat cereal, pumpkin seeds, cashews, spinach, potatoes, soybeans, and peanuts
Good food sources of vitamin B6 include: potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans, chicken breast, oatmeal, pork loin, mackerel, snapper, wheat germ, and walnuts
Good food sources of potassium include: figs, avocado, papayas, bananas, dates, bulgur, skim milk, guava, cantaloupe, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Baked potato is the best source.
Good food sources of zinc include: oysters, beef shank, chicken legs, pork tenderloin, yogurt, baked beans, cashews, pecans, Swiss cheese, and milk
Good food sources of CoQ10 include: beef, chicken, trout, wild salmon, and broccoli
Good food sources of folic acid include: beef liver, fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, great northern beans, asparagus, wheat germ, fresh squeezed orange juice, turnip greens, vegetarian baked beans, and broccoli
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Keeping Blood Pressure Low
Want the scoop on other common prescription high blood pressure medications? Learn more about:
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How does exercise help lower your blood pressure? Find out the many ways that exercise promotes healthy blood pressure and get tips on the most heart-healthy types of exercise.
How can you address stress to lower your blood pressure? Read about techniques to help you manage your emotions and daily stressors in an effort to reduce your blood pressure reading.
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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