Calcium Channel Blockers for Heart Failure

Search Knowledgebase

Topic Contents

Calcium Channel Blockers for Heart Failure


Generic NameBrand Name
diltiazemCardizem, Tiazac
verapamilCovera, Isoptin, Verelan

How It Works

Calcium channel blockers might help relieve symptoms of diastolic heart failure. They can help treat other health problems you might have, such as high blood pressure.1

Why It Is Used

Calcium channel blockers may be used to treat diastolic heart failure. Diastolic heart failure happens when your heart has a hard time filling with blood.

Calcium channel blockers may help your heart fill with blood more easily by slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. When your heart beats more slowly, it has more time to fill between each heartbeat. Calcium channel blockers may also help your heart muscle to relax, which can help your heart fill with blood. Lower blood pressure may help treat diastolic heart failure because your heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood.

Calcium channel blockers usually are not used for systolic heart failure, in which the heart has a hard time pumping out blood.

How Well It Works

Calcium channel blockers may help relieve symptoms of diastolic heart failure by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure so the heart fills with blood more easily. Calcium channel blockers may relieve symptoms of diastolic heart failure because they also help treat other heart problems like high blood pressure and angina.2

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Hives.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you think your heart failure is getting worse. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling in the lower legs, ankles, or feet.
  • More shortness of breath.
  • Sudden weight gain.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Slow heart rate.
  • Constipation or diarrhea.
  • Dizziness or light-headedness.
  • Flushing or feeling warm.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Your doctor may ask you to take your pulse regularly to make sure your heart rate is not too slow. To learn how to take your pulse, see Taking a Pulse (Heart Rate).

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or trying to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Your doctor will watch you carefully if you take a calcium channel blocker for systolic heart failure. These medicines can sometimes make heart failure worse because they make it harder for your heart to pump blood. Regular checkups and follow-up appointments are important.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Hunt SA, et al. (2009). 2009 focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management of heart failure in adults. A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, 119(14): e391–e479.
  2. Heart Failure Society of America (2006). HFSA 2006 comprehensive heart failure practice guidelines: Executive summary. Journal of Cardiac Failure, 12(1): 10–38. Also available online:


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Theresa O'Young, PharmD - Clinical Pharmacy
Last Revised July 22, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.