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What is Amlodipine?

5th June 2019

Within the world of medicine, you often find that naming conventions follow a similar pattern so that it’s easier for you to identify what they’re used for. For example, the active ingredient in ED medications all end in ‘-afil’, while a lot of female-only medications (the contraceptive pill, the morning after pill and HRT treatments) end in ‘-elle’ or ‘-ette’. And the high blood pressure category is no different, because a lot of these end in ‘-dipine’. Nifedipine, Felodipine, Lercanidipine and Amlodipine.

All of these medications fall into a category of medicines known as calcium channel blockers, and they form a common treatment option for high blood pressure. Not all calcium channel blockers were born equal though, and you can actually break this category down even further into Phenylalkylamines, Dihydropyridines and Benzothiazepines. Essentially, Phenylalkylamines affect your heart, Dihydropyridines affect your arteries and Benzothiazepines affect both.

How do calcium channel blockers work?

As the name suggests, calcium channel blockers (also known as calcium antagonists) prevent calcium from entering the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. Calcium plays an important role in how the muscles in your arteries and heart constrict, so by reducing the amount that enters your cells, you can effectively treat a number of ailments.

Calcium channel blockers not only reduce how strongly and quickly your heart contracts (therefore lowering your heart rate), but they also help the blood vessels to relax and cause the arteries to widen. Because of this dual effect, calcium channel blockers can act as an effective treatment option for high blood pressure, angina, and Raynaud’s phenomenon.

What is Amlodipine?

When looking into the category of calcium channel blockers a little deeper, you’ll find that all the ‘-dipine’ drugs fall into the Dihydropyridine category. This means that these drugs, including Amlodipine, work mainly on your arteries (rather than the cells in your heart) and effectively lower your blood pressure.

Amlodipine is an effective treatment for high blood pressure because the action of the active ingredient causes the muscles in your arteries to relax, which makes them wider and makes it easier for blood to be pumped through them. This lowers the strain on your heart and decreases the long-term risks of high blood pressure. Although high blood pressure usually doesn’t cause any immediate symptoms, it does put you at a higher risk of heart attack or stroke further down the line if left untreated.

What causes high blood pressure?

There are a variety of things that can lead you to suffer from high blood pressure; some risk factors are avoidable and others not so much. For example, your risk of high blood pressure naturally rises as you age, because your blood vessels become less flexible. You may also find that a family history of high blood pressure can increase your risk significantly, while other factors such as gender and ethnic background can have a sway too (men are generally more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, as are those with an African background).

High blood pressure can also appear alongside other medical conditions. 50% of those with high blood pressure, also have high cholesterol and those with diabetes or sleep apnea might also find that they’re more likely to develop high blood pressure.

However, a lot of the causes (some of the most common) are completely avoidable. Being overweight or obese puts unnecessary strain on your heart and can make it harder to pump the blood around your body. Normally directly linked to this is also a lack of physical activity or a poor diet, and while the two latter points will likely apply to people who are overweight or obese, they can also apply to people of a healthy weight so it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, even if you’re not someone who puts on weight if they don’t.

Smoking is a bad habit (as we all know) but did you know that it can cause high blood pressure? It does this in two ways; tobacco causes the blood vessels to narrow, while also reducing the amount of oxygen in your blood, which makes your heart beat faster to compensate. Alcohol intake is another habit that can dramatically raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart failure.

How do I use Amlodipine?

Amlodipine is a prescription-only drug, which means you will need a doctor to diagnose high blood pressure and fill a prescription before you’re able to start taking it. Once you do have it, you should take one tablet per day or as advised by a doctor.

Amlodipine comes in two different strengths - 5mg and 10mg - and you will normally be started on the lower dose and then bumped up to the higher one if needed.

Take the tablets by swallowing whole with a drink of water, but never with grapefruit juice or other grapefruit products. Grapefruit should not be taken alongside any calcium channel blocker, as if increases the amount of medicine that enters your system and could cause your blood pressure to fall too far.