Heart failure is a condition where your heart cannot pump blood efficiently, causing an inadequate blood supply to the body. 

Disorders such as high blood pressure and narrowed blood vessels can weaken your heart muscles or make the heart too stiff to pump effectively.

While not all diseases that cause heart failure can be reversed, treatment options, including medicines, can reduce heart failure symptoms and help you live longer. Amlodipine is one such medication that lowers your blood pressure, preventing heart failure.

Besides, lifestyle changes such as losing weight and lowering sodium intake can improve the quality of your life.

Lastly, you can also prevent heart failure by managing or preventing the conditions that may result in heart failure.

Let’s understand more about heart failure, its causes, how Amlodipine helps, and precautions while using it.

What Causes A Heart Failure?

As discussed before, heart failure results from health conditions that weaken or damage your heart muscles. It can also occur if the heart muscles become too stiff.

Let’s first understand how your heart works.

The right half of your heart receives deoxygenated blood from your body and passes the blood to the lungs through the pulmonary artery, where it is oxygenated.

The left half of the heart receives this oxygenated blood from your lungs through pulmonary veins. It pumps this pure blood to the rest of your body.

Your heart is divided into four chambers. The upper ones are known as atriums, and the lower ones are called ventricles. The lower chambers or ventricles are the main pumping chambers, while the atriums are the receiving chambers.

In heart failure, the muscles of the ventricles become weak or stiff, and they may not fill completely while they dilate between two beats. In some cases, the ventricles may also stretch and cannot pump effectively during contraction. (More about this in systolic and diastolic heart failure)

The heart has to pump harder to fulfill the body’s blood supply needs. Gradually, the heart cannot meet up the amount of blood needed to pump to the rest of the body. This amount of blood pumped by your left ventricle to your body parts is known as the ejaculation fraction, a vital indicator of heart failure.

The ejection fraction of a healthy heart is at least 50%, which means that it can pump more than half of the blood that fills the left ventricle with each beat. In heart failure, this fraction is lower.

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However, heart failure can also happen with a normal ejection fraction. This is usually seen when the heart muscles become rigid and stiff due to hypertension.

The following conditions are the underlying cause for heart failure in the majority of the cases:

  • Hypertension
  • Coronary heart diseases
  • Abnormality of heart valves
  • Cardiomyopathy (damaged heart muscles)
  • Myocarditis (Inflammation of heart muscles)
  • Birth heart defects
  • Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm)
  • Blood clots in the lungs
  • Virus affecting heart muscles
  • Certain medicines such as chemotherapy
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Anemia
  • Other conditions such as HIV and diabetes

Besides, while heart failure can happen in anyone, certain factors increase its risk, including:

  • Living a sedentary lifestyle
  • Being overweight
  • Consuming foods rich in cholesterol or fat
  • Smoking
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Hypertension
  • Heart diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Medicines such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Sleep apnea

Types of Heart Failure

Heart failure can affect the left ventricle, right ventricle, or both, but it begins on the left side in most cases. It can also be systolic or diastolic.

Left-sided Heart Failure

It is the most common type and affects your left ventricle that pumps oxygenated blood to your body.

This type of heart failure occurs when the ventricle cannot pump blood effectively, causing blood to pool in the lungs. This ultimately results in the accumulation of fluid and shortness of breath. Your body also does not get oxygen-rich blood.

Right-sided Heart Failure

Here, your right ventricle cannot pump blood effectively to the lungs and is usually a result of left-sided heart failure. The buildup of fluid in the lungs due to left-sided heart failure causes your right ventricle to pump harder. This increases the load on your right ventricle and causes it to weaken and fail.

Right-sided failure can also be caused by other conditions such as lung diseases.

Diastolic Heart Failure

Systole and diastole are phases of the cardiac cycle that support blood movement between the heart chambers. Systole involves contraction, and diastole involves relaxation of heart muscles. The blood collects in a chamber during relaxation and is pumped out during contraction.

In diastolic heart failure, the heart muscles are stiff, which means that the heart chambers are not adequately filled with blood.

This condition is known as diastolic dysfunction, causing a lack of blood flow to other body parts. It is more common in women than in men.

Systolic Heart Failure

As you may have guessed, this condition happens when your heart muscles cannot contract. Failure of the heart to contract results in a reduced amount of blood pumped by the heart.

This condition is also known as systolic dysfunction and occurs when the heart is enlarged or its muscles get weak.

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Unlike diastolic heart failure, this type of failure is more common in men than in women.

Heart Failure Due to High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension is a significant risk factor for heart failure. It is seen that about two-third of heart failure patients have hypertension or will have it at some point in time.

Hypertension is a condition where the blood pressure increases to a level that may be harmful to your body. Blood pressure reading indicates how much blood passes through the blood vessels and the resistance it faces when your heart beats.

As the resistance to blood flow is high, it damages the blood vessels. It can cause scar formation, making it easier for fat and other things to build up on the lining of your blood vessel. All this ultimately causes your arteries to stiffen and narrow.

Gradually, it forces your heart to work harder than usual to pump blood through these narrow and stiff blood vessels. The heart muscles become thicker to fight with the increased load, and the heart chamber widens. All this causes the heart to pump blood ineffectively.

It causes symptoms of heart failure, such as breathlessness and fatigue.

Other symptoms include:

  • Sudden weight gain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excess fatigue
  • Irregular pulse
  • Persistent coughing
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Palpitations
  • Ankle and leg swelling
  • Protruding neck veins

Using Amlodipine to Prevent Heart Failures and Related Chest Pains

Amlodipine belongs to a class of drugs known as calcium channel blockers.

It lowers your blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering the cells of your blood vessels and heart. Calcium causes your heart and arteries to contract strongly, increasing the resistance to blood flow.

Calcium channel blockers block calcium entry, relaxing the blood vessels and thus lowering resistance to blood flow and blood pressure. Amlodipine thus increases oxygen and blood supply to the heart, reducing its workload.

It is usually used to manage heart failure due to hypertension when other medicines fail to work as well as they should. However, Amlodipine cannot be used if your heart failure is due to systolic function.

But it has an added benefit to relieve chest pain, control irregular heartbeat, and slow down your heart rate.

Use and Dosage

So, along with high blood pressure, your doctor may also prescribe Amlodipine to manage:

  • Chest pain
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Circulatory disorders such as Raynaud’s disease

Read the patient information leaflet before taking this medicine. Generally, you can follow the mentioned instructions:

  • Take medicine exactly as suggested by your doctor
  • Swallow the whole tablet without breaking it with a glass of water
  • You can also dissolve this tablet in a glass of water if that is easier for you to take. But you must take all the water at once if you are doing so.
  • You should take medicine at the same time every day without fail
  • You can take this tablet with or without food
  • Grapefruit increases the concentration of Amlodipine and thus increases the risk of side effects. So, avoid eating or drinking grapefruit when taking this medicine.
  • Do not stop the medication unless advised by your doctor. Hypertension is a silent disorder, which does not have any symptoms. You should thus take this medicine even if you feel well.
  • If you forget the dose, take it as soon as you remember it the same day and carry on as usual from the next day
  • If you completely forget the dose for the whole day, skip it and carry on, as usual, the next day
  • Do not take double the dose to compensate for the missed dose
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Other Precautions

As with every medication, Amlodipine may also have some side effects in specific individuals.

Very Common

  • Edema or fluid retention

Consult your doctor if it persists for more than a week.

Common

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sleepiness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Double or altered vision
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Ankle swelling
  • Muscle cramps

However, if you get the following side effects, you should visit your doctor immediately:

  • Swelling of face, eyes, or lips
  • Sudden chest pain, breathing difficulty, or wheeziness
  • Swelling of the tongue
  • Severe skin allergy including hives, skin rash, intense itching, and peeling of the skin
  • Abnormal heartbeats
  • Severe back and abdominal pain that may suggest inflammation of the pancreas

You should avoid this medication if you have the following conditions or are on certain medications unless suggested by your doctor.

You should not take Amlodipine if you have the following conditions:

  • Low blood pressure 
  • Allergy to Amlodipine or any of its ingredients
  • Aortic heart valve narrowing 
  • Cardiogenic shock
  • Heart failure

You should also avoid taking Amlodipine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding 

Inform your doctor before taking Amlodipine if you have either of the following conditions:

  • Recent heart attack
  • Sudden increase in blood pressure
  • Liver disorders
  • Heart failure

It is also a good idea to consult your doctor about eating grapefruit or drinking its juice while on Amlodipine. Besides, alcohol also interferes with the working of this medicine and should be avoided as it may increase the risk of side effects.

Also, talk to your doctor before taking any new drugs, herbs, or supplements, as it is possible that they may interact with Amlodipine.

Your doctor may advise regular monitoring of blood pressure and pulse. Contact your doctor immediately if your pulse is slower than what it is supposed to be.

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