Medically Approved

The lowdown on amlodipine 

Man meditating to help lower blood pressure

What to know about this blood pressure medication, from how it works to what side effects to expect. 

Linda Rodgers

By Linda Rodgers

If you already have a plan to lower your blood pressure, pat yourself on the back. About 1 in 3 Americans with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it. And because they’re not aware, they’re not doing anything to lower it. 

That’s not good. Over time, high blood pressure can raise your risk of a heart attack, stroke and even dementia. It can damage your kidneys too.

Of course, treating high blood pressure can be tricky sometimes. You’ll probably have to change the way you eat and exercise. You’ll need to quit smoking if you’re a smoker. And your doctor will probably recommend amlodipine. Doctors typically start patients off on amlodipine besylate when their blood pressure is higher than 140/90.  

You’ll either take this medication by itself or with other medications. Either way, you should find your blood pressure readings going down. Here’s what to expect when you take amlodipine — from how it works to what side effects it has. 

(Be sure to search for amlodipine prescriptions on the Optum Perks discount app before heading to the pharmacy. You could find coupons for up to 80% off.) 

How amlodipine works on blood pressure 

Amlodipine is a calcium channel blocker (CCB). It blocks the way calcium moves into the cells of your heart and other blood vessels, explains Gina Garrison, PharmD. She’s a professor of pharmacy practice at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Albany, New York. CCBs relax and widen the arteries so blood has an easier time flowing through the veins. When the blood flows more easily, your blood pressure goes down. 

Doctors also use amlodipine to treat angina (chest pains). When you have angina, there’s not enough blood flowing to your heart. Once your blood vessels widen, more blood can get to your heart. 

This particular CCB has been around for 25 years, says Garrison. It’s great at lowering blood pressure, especially in African Americans. And it prevents heart disease, she adds. It’s also very effective at reducing the risk of a stroke.  

It may take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks to see results, Garrison notes. Usually, you’ll report back to your doctor in a month to check your blood pressure levels. If your blood pressure is still high after 4 weeks, your doctor will probably raise your dose, she adds. If that still doesn’t do the trick, your doctor may add another type of medication, such as a diuretic, or switch you to another medication.  

Recommended reading: What you should know about race and hypertension. 

How to take amlodipine 

The usual starting dose is 5 milligrams (mg) a day, either in tablet or liquid form, says Garrison. (The liquid form is given to kids or to folks who have trouble swallowing.) If you’re older or are underweight, your doctor will start you on a 2.5 mg dose to reduce the risk of side effects, she notes. You can go up to 10 mg a day. 

Then do the following: 

  • Take amlodipine once a day, says Garrison. You can take it with or without food. But take the tablet at the same time every day — either at breakfast, dinner or bedtime, she adds. Bonus: It’s easier to remember to take your medications when it’s an everyday habit. 
  • If you miss a dose (it happens), don’t take 2 pills to make up for the missed dose, warns Garrison. If it’s only been a few hours, take the amlodipine when you remember. More than 12 hours? Wait until the next day and then take it at your regular time, Garrison says. (Double-check with your provider, though.)  
  • Store amlodipine in a dry place at room temperature, whether the tablets are in a pill box or their original bottle, advises Garrison. Avoid keeping them in the bathroom.  

It’s important to take amlodipine every day. “Since most people aren’t symptomatic with high blood pressure, they don’t ‘feel’ better when taking the medicine,” says Garrison. “In fact, they may feel side effects.” In that case, they shouldn’t automatically stop taking amlodipine. Instead, they need to talk to their doctor about the next steps.    

Recommended reading: Why are there so many types of blood pressure medication? 

Pharmacist wearing a head scarf organizing medication
Save up to 80% on your medications

Get free coupons from Optum Perks — accepted at pharmacies nationwide.

What are amlodipine’s side effects? 

Side effects tend to be mild to moderate, says Garrison. Most of the time, people have side effects at higher doses, she adds. The most common side effects include: 

Swelling 

This usually happens in the lower legs and ankles. More women than men experience this side effect. But it tends to happen at higher doses (10 mg versus 5 mg, for example).  

What to do about it: Mention it to your doctor. Your provider might drop you back to a lower dose. But if 5 mg of amlodipine wasn’t doing the trick to control blood pressure, the doctor will probably add another medication, such as an ACE inhibitor, says Garrison. 

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded  

This is likely due to a sudden drop in blood pressure. Amlodipine doesn’t tend to produce sudden drops, since it works gradually, Garrison explains. But it is possible in people who also have aortic stenosis, a type of heart disease that affects the heart valves. 

What to do about it: Move more slowly when changing positions, suggests Garrison. Instead of bolting out of bed, sit up slowly. Sit for a minute on the side of the bed with both feet on the ground. Then stand up. Again, mention this side effect to your provider, in case it’s related to the size of your dose. 

Other side effects are much less common, says Garrison. But they do sometimes happen at higher doses. They include: 

  • Headaches 
  • Feeling your face get hot or flushed 
  • Racing or fluttering heartbeat (also known as palpitations) 
  • Fatigue 
  • Stomach pain or nausea 
  • Sleepiness 

The best way to check whether amlodipine is doing its job? Get a home blood pressure monitor. Check your blood pressure every day, at the same time of day. Keep a log to show to your doctor. And don’t forget to give yourself a high-five for taking care of your health. 

Another thing that feels good? Spending less on medications. Don’t forget to grab your free prescription discount card today to save up to 80% at the pharmacy. 

 

Additional sources:
Myths about blood pressure: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
Amlodipine facts: National Library of Medicine 
Monitoring blood pressure at home: American Heart Association