Health Encyclopedia > Medications

Calcium Channel Blockers for Heart Failure

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
amlodipine Norvasc
diltiazem Cardizem, Dilacor, Taztia, Tiazac
felodipine  
nifedipine Procardia
nisoldipine Sular
verapamil Calan, Verelan

How It Works

Calcium channel blockers slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.

Calcium channel blockers slow your heart rate by blocking the number of electrical impulses that cause the heart muscle to contract and pump blood.

Calcium channel blockers help lower your blood pressure by relaxing the muscle tissue in your blood vessels. This makes it easier for blood to flow through the vessels.

Why It Is Used

Calcium channel blockers may be used to treat diastolic heart failure. Diastolic heart failure happens when your heart has a hard time filling with blood.

Calcium channel blockers may help your heart fill with blood more easily by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. When your heart beats more slowly, it has more time to fill between each heartbeat. Calcium channel blockers may also help your heart muscle to relax, which can help your heart fill with blood. Lower blood pressure may help treat diastolic heart failure because your heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood.

Calcium channel blockers usually are not used for systolic heart failure, in which the heart has a hard time pumping out blood.

How Well It Works

Calcium channel blockers might help relieve symptoms of diastolic heart failure. They can help treat other health problems you might have, such as high blood pressure.1

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you think your heart failure is getting worse. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the lower legs, ankles, or feet.
  • More shortness of breath.
  • Sudden weight gain.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Slow heart rate.
  • Constipation or diarrhea.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Flushing or feeling warm.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Your doctor may ask you to take your pulse regularly to make sure your heart rate is not too slow. To learn how to take your pulse, see Taking a Pulse (Heart Rate).

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

For tips on taking medicine for heart failure, see:

Click here to view an Actionset. Heart Failure: Taking Medicines Properly.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.

Checkups

Your doctor will watch you carefully if you take a calcium channel blocker for systolic heart failure. These medicines can sometimes make heart failure worse because they make it harder for your heart to pump blood. Regular checkups and follow-up appointments are important.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

References

Citations

  1. Hunt SA, et al. (2009). 2009 focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management of heart failure in adults. A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 119(14): e391–e479.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy
Last Revised April 26, 2012

Last Revised: April 26, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & Margaret Hetherington, PHM, BsC - Pharmacy

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