written by: Leigh A. Zaykoski
• edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski
• updated: 8/23/2010
Doctors prescribe calcium channel blockers and beta blockers to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). Compare calcium channel blockers vs beta blockers to find out the benefits, side effects, drug precautions and risks of each.
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Calcium channel blockers relax the blood vessels by slowing the rate of calcium entry into the heart muscle and walls of the blood vessels. This slows the heart rate and makes it easier for blood to flow through the circulatory system. As a result, blood pressure decreases. Beta blockers block the effects of epinephrine on the heart, slowing the heart rate and reducing blood pressure.
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Common types of calcium channel blockers include nicardipine, verapamil, nifedipine, amlodipine and diltiazem. Two types of beta blockers help to control blood pressure. Cardioselective beta blockers ilude metoprolol , bisoprolol and esmolol. These drugs block beta-1 receptors. Non-cardioselective beta blockers block beta-1 and beta-2 receptors. Examples of non-cardioselective beta blockers include propranolol, nadolol, carvedilol and timolol.
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When comparing calcium channel blockers vs beta blockers, check the side effects of each drug class. Common side effects of calcium channel blockers include heartburn, flushing, fatigue and swelling of the abdomen or extremities. Less common effects include dizziness, numbness in the hands or feet, wheezing, shortness of breath, slow heartbeat, fast heartbeat and trouble swallowing. Beta blockers also have some side effects. Common side effects of beta blockers include fatigue, dizziness, weakness and cold hands. Other side effects of beta blockers include loss of libido, depression, difficulty sleeping and shortness of breath.
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Some people should not take calcium channel blockers or beta blockers, or may need to use extra caution when taking these drugs. Before taking calcium channel blockers, tell your doctor if you have a history of abnormal heart rhythm, low blood sugar, Parkinson’s disease, heart failure, kidney disease, liver disease or a history of depression. Do not take beta blockers without telling your doctor if you have food allergies, plan to become pregnant or have poor circulation, slow heart rate, diabetes, asthma, hay fever, emphysema or chronic bronchitis.
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If you compare calcium channel blockers vs beta blockers and find that the side effects and risks are too great, consider some alternatives. Other drugs treat hypertension without some of the side effects of calcium channel blockers and beta blockers. Diuretics increase fluid excretion to reduce blood pressure and swelling. ACE inhibitors prevent the conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II, which relaxes the blood vessels and makes it easier for the heart to pump blood. Angiotensin receptor blockers block the effects of angiotensin II on the blood vessels, allowing them to dilate and pass blood more easily. Discuss your medication with your doctor to determine if one of these alternatives would benefit your condition.
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Do not stop taking calcium channel blockers or beta blockers without the supervision of a physician. Stopping anti-hypertensive drugs suddenly may cause blood pressure to increase to dangerous levels, increasing the risk of stroke and other serious complications. Discuss any side effects with your doctor to determine if a smaller dose could control your blood pressure without so many side effects.