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Calcium Channel Blocker Drug Information

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What are calcium channel blockers (CCBs) and how do they work?

Calcium channel blockers are drugs that block the entry of calcium into the muscle cells of the heart and arteries.

  • The entry of calcium is critical for the conduction of the electrical signal that passes from muscle cell to muscle cell of the heart, and signals the cells to contract.
  • It also is necessary in order for the muscle cells to contract and thereby pump blood.
  • In the arteries, the entry of calcium into muscle cells constricts the arteries.

Thus, by blocking the entry of calcium, calcium channel blockers reduce electrical conduction within the heart, decrease the force of contraction (work) of the muscle cells, and dilate arteries.

  • Dilation of the arteries reduces blood pressure and thereby the effort the heart must exert to pump blood.
  • Combined with decreases in the force of contraction, this leads to a reduced requirement for oxygen by the heart.
  • Dilation of the arteries provides more oxygen-carrying blood to the heart.
  • The combination of reduced demand for oxygen and increased delivery of oxygen prevents angina or heart pain. (Angina occurs when the heart is not getting enough oxygen relative to the amount of work it is doing.)
  • In addition, calcium channel blockers slow electrical conduction through the heart and thereby correct abnormal rapid heartbeats.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/17/2017

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