Common questions about amlodipine (2023)

How does amlodipine work?

Amlodipine is a type of medicine called a calcium channel blocker.

Like other calcium channel blockers, it relaxes and widens blood vessels. It does this by blocking calcium going into muscles in the heart and blood vessels. Muscles need calcium to contract, so when you block the calcium, it makes the muscle cells relax. This lowers your blood pressure and makes it easier for your heart to pump blood around your body.

In angina, amlodipine works by improving the blood and oxygen supply to your heart. Angina is chest pain that comes on when not enough blood gets to the muscles of the heart. This usually happens because the arteries going to the heart become hardened and narrowed.

How long does amlodipine take to work?

Amlodipine starts to work on the day you start taking it, but it may be a couple of weeks before it takes full effect.

If you're taking amlodipine for high blood pressure, you may not have any symptoms. In this case, you may not feel any different when you take amlodipine. This does not mean that the medicine is not working, so it's important to keep taking it.

If you're taking amlodipine for angina, it will probably take a couple of weeks before you feel better. Until then, you may still get chest pains sometimes, and you may even find the pain gets worse to start with.

If you get chest pain that does not stop after a few minutes or is new or worse than your chest pain caused by angina, this is a possible sign of a heart attack and needs to be checked out as soon as possible.

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Make sure you have your medicine (spray or tablets) for treating angina attacks with you at all times and use it if you need to.

Are there any long-term side effects?

Amlodipine is generally safe to take for a long time. In fact, it works best when you take it for a long time.

Are there other medicines for high blood pressure?

There are several other calcium channel blockers which lower blood pressure in the same way as amlodipine.

They include nifedipine, felodipine, lacidipine and lercanidipine.

There are also 2 other calcium channel blockers, diltiazem and verapamil, that work slightly differently to lower blood pressure.

There are also lots of other types of medicines to lower your blood pressure. They work in a different way to calcium channel blockers. These include:

  • ACE inhibitors like ramipril and lisinopril
  • angiotensin receptor blockers like candesartan
  • beta blockers like bisoprolol
  • tablets that make you pee more (diuretics) like bendroflumethiazide

If you cannot take amlodipine or other calcium channel blockers because of side effects, you may be able to switch to another blood pressure-lowering medicine. Your doctor will advise which one is best for you depending on your age, ethnicity and medical history.

Are there other medicines for angina?

There are several other calcium channel blockers which prevent angina in the same way as amlodipine. They include felodipine and nifedipine.

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There are 2 other calcium channel blockers used for angina that work differently, diltiazem and verapamil.

There are also other medicines for angina that work in a different way. They include:

  • beta blockers like bisoprolol
  • nitrates like isosorbide dinitrate
  • nicorandil
How does amlodipine compare with other calcium channel blockers?

Amlodipine works as well as other calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and angina.

The side effects are also similar to other calcium channel blockers.

There are some differences, though, between amlodipine and some other calcium channel blockers.

Diltiazem and verapamil have other effects on the heart. These calcium channel blockers are used for other heart problems and can also have other side effects.

You only need to take amlodipine once a day, but some other calcium channel blockers need to be taken more often.

Can I stop taking amlodipine now my blood pressure is lower?

Even if amlodipine lowers your blood pressure, it's best to carry on taking it. If you stop taking it, your blood pressure could go back up again.

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If you need blood pressure-lowering medicines, you'll probably need to take them for the rest of your life.

Remember, by keeping your blood pressure low, you're protecting yourself against having a heart attack or stroke in the future.

Will it affect my contraception?

Amlodipine will not affect your contraception. But some types of hormonal methods of contraception, like the combined pill and contraceptive patch, are not usually recommended if you have high blood pressure.

Talk to your doctor if you're taking or using combined hormonal contraceptives.

Can I drive or ride a bike?

Amlodipine can make some people feel dizzy. If this happens to you, do not drive a car, ride a bike, or use tools or machinery until you feel better.

It's an offence to drive a car if your ability to drive safely is affected. It's your responsibility to decide if it's safe to drive. If you're in any doubt, do not drive.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you're unsure whether it's safe for you to drive while taking amlodipine. GOV.UK has more information on the law on drugs and driving.

Can I drink alcohol with it?

Yes, you can drink alcohol with amlodipine. But drinking alcohol can make amlodipine lower your blood pressure more than you need. This can make you feel sleepy or dizzy, or bring on a headache.

If this happens to you, it's best to stop drinking alcohol while you're taking amlodipine.

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Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?

Having large amounts of grapefruit or grapefruit juice can increase the concentration of amlodipine in your body and make side effects worse. If you are affected, you may have to avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking amlodipine.

Tell your doctor if you have any increased side effects, such as feeling dizzy, flushing or getting headaches, after eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice.

Otherwise, you can eat and drink normally while taking amlodipine.

Can lifestyle changes help the health of my heart?

You can boost the health of your heart by making some key lifestyle changes.

These will also help if you have high blood pressure or angina:

  • Quit smoking – smoking increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Quitting smoking brings down your blood pressure and relieves heart failure symptoms. Try to avoid secondhand smoke, too.
  • Cut down on alcohol – drinking too much alcohol raises blood pressure over time. It makes heart failure worse, too.
  • Exercise – regular exercise lowers blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition. It does not need to be too energetic, walking every day will help.
  • Eat well – aim to eat a diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins. It's a good idea to follow these tips for a lower salt diet, too. Eating too much salt is the biggest cause of high blood pressure. The more salt you eat, the higher your blood pressure will be. Aim for no more than 6g of salt a day.
  • Deal with stress – when you're anxious or upset, your heart beats faster, you breathe more heavily, and your blood pressure often goes up. This can make heart failure worse, too. Find ways to reduce stress in your life. To give your heart a rest, try napping or putting your feet up when possible. Spend time with friends and family to be social and help keep stress at bay.
  • Vaccinations – if you have heart failure, it's recommended that you have the flu vaccine every year and the pneumococcal vaccine as recommended by your GP. Ask your doctor about these vaccinations. You can have them free on the NHS. Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination is recommended for most people. Make sure you've had all the doses that you are eligible for. Talk to your doctor if you think you might be in one of the at risk groups.


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