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High Blood Pressure

Calcium, the Mineral vs Calcium blocker

08/20/2003

Question:

I had been on Lotrel for awhile and it was keeping my blood pressure borderline, 150/90. Then, I developed a cough. So, the Doctor switched me to Atacand. After about a month it seemed to be elavated somewhat, so he added Norvasc. His secretary phoned the pharmacy. The pharmacist said that the new drug(Norvasc) is a CALCIUM BLOCKER. When I got home I realized that I have been taking calcium as a daily supplement along with my multi vitamins, vitamin E,C,etc I feel kind of stupid now that I realize I have been taking calcium and now need a drug to block it. Is this the same kind of Calcium? I noticed in the answers to a few questions on your website that Calcium is also recommended to help LOWER !! Blood Pressure. So, I`m confused on the whole issue of calcium as a mineral supplement and the need to block it. If I stop taking the mineral, can I stop taking the blocker, Norvasc? I take the mineral supplement for no particular reason, other than I read where it good for you. I`m 64 yrs young. Thank You

Answer:

Norvasc is indeed a calcium channel blocker. It works by decreasing the amount of calcium that can enter the cells of the blood vessels from the blood stream. This action on calcium is not related to the reason why dietary calcium supplements are generally a good thing. Calcium is distributed among three main compartments in the body: bone, blood stream and cells. Most of calcium is in the bone, where it is the main ingredient of the cement-like substance that gives bone its hardness. Some calcium is in the blood, where it circulates and can go into (or back out of) the bone and into (or out of) the cells according to the body`s needs. A tiny fraction of the body`s calcium is in the cells, including the cells that make up the arteries. The amount of calcium that is inside the cells is extremely small (the concentration is about 25,000 times lower than in the blood!) but it regulates the tension of the muscle cells of the arteries. The mechanisms that decide how much calcium is in the cells are completely different from those that regulate bone metabolism. Calcium supplements help the body in building bone, and can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, especially in women. A healthy diet rich in calcium can also help lower blood pressure, although the mechanism by which dietary calcium lower blood pressure is not well understood. In summary, you can continue to take both calcium supplements and Norvasc. The two do not interfere with each other, and both have beneficial effects. 

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Response by:

Max C Reif, MD Max C Reif, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director of Hypertension Section
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati