The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported roughly 75 million Americans currently suffer from high blood pressure.
Some causes of high blood pressure are related to factors outside of our control like age, genetics, and gender. But in many cases, it can be avoided by eating healthy and exercising regularly.
However, these lifestyle changes won’t lower blood pressure overnight. Most doctors will prescribe drugs to prevent it from getting out of control. The most commonly prescribed drug for high blood pressure is amlodipine.
Amlodipine (or Norvasc) is effective at lowering blood pressure, but like many other prescription drugs, it comes with potentially nasty side effects. Keep reading for 5 alternatives to amlodipine to lower blood pressure.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common and dangerous condition affecting 1 in 3 people in the United States. And 1 billion people globally.
It occurs when the pressure against your artery walls becomes too high and essentially blocks the blood flow to your heart and other important organs.
If left untreated for too long, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke. Sometimes referred to as the silent killer, high blood pressure has few symptoms and can go under a doctor’s radar for years.
Amlodipine is regarded as the most effective prescription drug against blood pressure. It is a calcium channel blocker that works by opening up the blood vessels to increase blood flow.
While there are no strong arguments against its effectiveness, its side effects can be unpleasant. Side effects of amlodipine include nausea, headaches, swelling and stomach pain. Here are 5 alternatives to avoid these side effects:
1. Felodipine and Lercanidipine
These two drugs are similar in nature to amlodipine but are considered safer by many experts. They are also calcium channel blockers that work by opening up the blood vessels. They achieve a similar result.
Although, they are not quite as effective. Side effects can also include headaches and swelling, but not to the same extent as amlodipine.
People react differently to different drugs, so if you’ve experienced bad side effects while taking amlodipine, talk to your doctor. Felodipine or lercanidipine could be better options for you.
2. ACE Inhibitors
In some cases, high blood pressure is caused by a chemical called angiotensin II entering the bloodstream. This chemical makes blood vessels narrower and increases the blood’s pressure on the artery walls.
Medications called angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are effective at blocking the production of the angiotensin II. They help to relax the blood vessels to improve blood flow.
Examples of ACE inhibitors are Enalapril and Lisinopril. There aren’t many side effects linked to these drugs, but some people do experience dizziness, headaches, and fatigue.
3. Beta Blockers
Another alternative med for amlodipine is a beta blocker. Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, work by blocking or reducing the production of stress hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline.
This blockage causes the heart to beat slower, which lowers blood pressure. Common beta blocker medications include Atenolol and Bisoprolol.
In addition to controlling blood pressure, these meds can also be effective in treating angina attacks (chest pain precluding a heart attack), and heart rhythm disorders.
Side effects for these drugs are not common. If a patient does experience any side effects they are likely to be nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. These side effects can be reduced or avoided by taking the medication with food.
Diuretics are medications that promote increased urine production. These types of medications can help reduce blood pressure by helping the body filter out salt and water from the bloodstream.
When salt and water are removed from the bloodstream, it lowers the amount of fluid leftover in your blood. This reduces the total volume of blood, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
A common diuretic prescribed for blood pressure is Bendroflumethiazide. Side effects can include diarrhea and increased sugar and calcium levels in your blood.
5. Lifestyle Changes Are the Best Alternatives to Amlodipine
Last but certainly not least, making healthy changes to your lifestyle can be the most effective amlodipine substitute.
Walk and exercise regularly. Don’t jump into anything too intense. But walking, light jogging, swimming, and low-intensity strength training can be the key to transforming your overall health, starting with your blood pressure.
Change your diet. Reduce your intake of sodium, cut back or completely cut out refined sugar and carbs, and increase your intake of potassium. More bananas, less candy!
Dark chocolate has been widely linked to lowering blood pressure. Eating a small square of dark chocolate or cocoa per day while adhering to other healthy lifestyle changes can help to reduce blood pressure drastically.
Drink less alcohol. Get details about how to manage alcoholism and make positive changes in your life if you struggle with alcohol dependency. Also, cut back on caffeine, and quit smoking.
All three of these popular vices are linked to high blood pressure. You don’t have to completely cut out alcohol and caffeine, but moderating your intake will help a lot.
Learn to manage your stress levels. High levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can have extremely negative effects on your health overall, and can especially increase your blood pressure.
Lose weight. We know, it’s easier said than done. But if you stick to this list of lifestyle changes, you will see your weight and blood pressure decrease while your overall health increases.
Alternatives to Other Common Medication
Another commonly prescribed drug in the United States is the painkiller, Vicodin. While it is effective for pain relief, it is extremely addictive and can produce negative side effects.
Instead, try acupuncture or chiropractic treatment to help alleviate chronic pain. These natural alternatives help to address the underlying problem. Rather than only treating the symptoms the way Vicodin or other painkillers do.
Cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor can be avoided by making the same lifestyle changes mentioned above. Change your diet and exercise often. These two things are the (not so) secret ingredients to living a long, healthy life.
The most important thing to take away from this article is that the best alternatives to amlodipine are lifestyle changes. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can eliminate the need to rely on prescription drugs.
However, in more advanced cases, doctors will prescribe medication. Depending on the severity and the nature of your condition, there are numerous alternatives to consider. Check out our health blog for more health advice and lifestyle tips.