Arb vs Calcium Channel Blocker

Listen to the article instead of reading through it.


For patients with hypertension or other types of cardiovascular diseases, certain medications that alter the concentration and activity of substances in the body involved in controlling blood pressure can help stabilize high levels and manage symptoms. Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) and Calcium Channel Blockers are two such drugs prescribed for these conditions. They each impact different mechanisms within the cardiac system, but both have a significant effect on reducing blood pressure.

ARBs block angiotensin II's effects—a hormone that narrows blood vessels—thus causing them to relax which lowers blood pressure. Calcium Channel Blockers impede calcium from entering cells of the heart and arteries; this prevents muscle contraction thus promoting relaxation of arterial walls leading to decreased systemic vascular resistance, which ultimately reduces high blood pressure.

What is Arb?

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) were a significant advancement from the first class of antihypertensive drugs known as calcium channel blockers. ARBs, which include drugs like losartan and valsartan, were approved by the FDA in 1995. They work by blocking angiotensin II receptors, effectively reducing vasoconstriction and helping to lower blood pressure more efficiently than their predecessors. They are prescribed for the treatment of hypertension and heart failure primarily but also have uses in patients with diabetes or kidney disease.

ARBs selectively target angiotensin II receptors without major influences on other systems, resulting in fewer side effects compared to calcium channel blockers that can affect multiple ion channels in cardiac cells potentially leading to edema or constipation among other things. However, both classes of medication have proven effective at controlling high blood pressure; deciding between them often hinges upon individual patient factors such as age, ethnicity, comorbid conditions and tolerance to potential side effects.

What conditions is Arb approved to treat?

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are approved for the treatment of several cardiovascular conditions:

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are also used to treat various cardiovascular disorders:

  • Hypertension
  • Angina pectoris, a condition characterized by chest pain due to reduced blood flow to the heart
  • Certain types of abnormal heart rhythms such as supraventricular tachycardia.

How does Arb help with these illnesses?

Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) help manage high blood pressure by blocking the action of angiotensin II, a chemical in your body that causes blood vessels to narrow (constrict). By stopping this chemical from acting, ARBs allow blood vessels to widen (dilate), which lowers blood pressure and increases the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart. Angiotensin II is a hormone that can increase blood pressure by causing the blood vessels in the body to narrow. It is thought that individuals with hypertension have relatively higher levels of angiotensin II. Therefore, by blocking angiotensin II, ARBs can limit the negative effects of hypertension and help patients manage their condition and stabilize their blood pressure. Conversely, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) also help manage high blood pressure, but they do so by preventing calcium from entering the cells of the heart and arteries. This action relaxes and widens blood vessels, which in turn reduces blood pressure.

What is Calcium Channel Blocker?

Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs), sometimes referred to as calcium antagonists, inhibit the flow of calcium into both heart cells and the cells along the walls of blood vessels. This reduced calcium influx can cause these cells to contract less forcefully, leading to a decrease in blood pressure and a reduction in heart rate. CCBs have been available since 1980 and are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, angina pectoris (chest pain typically caused by an inadequate supply of oxygen-rich blood to your heart muscle), and abnormal rhythms of the heart such as atrial fibrillation.

Unlike Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) that primarily work by blocking angiotensin II from constricting smooth muscles lining arteries thereby reducing high blood pressure, Calcium Channel Blockers do not specifically target this pathway but rather aim at relaxing and widening blood vessels through their action on cellular calcium channels. The side-effect profiles for these two types of drugs may differ with some patients experiencing fewer side effects with one type over the other. For instance, certain CCBs tend not to cause dry cough – a common adverse effect associated with ARBs usage.

What conditions is Calcium Channel Blocker approved to treat?

Calcium Channel Blockers have been approved for the treatment of:

  • Hypertension (High blood pressure)
  • Angina Pectoris (Chest Pain)
  • Raynaud's Disease, a condition that affects blood flow to the extremities such as fingers and toes
  • Certain types of irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias.

How does Calcium Channel Blocker help with these illnesses?

Calcium is a mineral that plays many crucial roles in the body, one of which includes helping blood vessels contract and dilate. It also aids muscle contraction and sends signals through the nervous system. Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) work by inhibiting calcium from entering cells of the heart and arterial walls, thereby reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and improving oxygen supply to the heart muscles. This makes them effective in treating high blood pressure or angina. While ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) also lower blood pressure by blocking angiotensin II receptors – thus preventing vasoconstriction – CCBs may be chosen over ARBs when patients have certain concurrent conditions such as arrhythmias or Raynaud's disease due to their specific mechanism of action on calcium channels.

How effective are both Arb and Calcium Channel Blocker?

Both angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) and calcium channel blockers have established histories of success in treating patients with hypertension. They came into clinical practice about a decade apart, with ARBs being the more recent addition. These two classes of drugs act on different pathways within the cardiovascular system, meaning they may be prescribed under different circumstances. The effectiveness of ARBs and calcium channel blockers in controlling high blood pressure was directly studied in various double-blind clinical trials; both classes exhibited similar efficacy in reducing blood pressure levels as well as promising safety profiles.

A 2003 meta-analysis showed that ARBs are effective at lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressures starting from the first week of treatment, their side effect profile is comparable to placebo for many adverse events, making them well-tolerated even among elderly populations or those with co-morbidities like heart failure or diabetes. Further research has indicated that beyond just lowering blood pressure, some ARBs also confer additional benefits such as renal protection which could make them particularly beneficial for hypertensive patients who also suffer from conditions like diabetic nephropathy.

Calcium channel blockers have been around since late 1970s and have an extensive history of use for managing hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders including Angina pectoris. Like ARBs they effectively lower systolic and diastolic pressures but through different mechanisms - by relaxing muscle cells lining arterial walls thus widening these vessels thereby reducing afterload on the heart and improving its oxygen supply-demand balance.

Despite all this it’s important to note that choice between these two drug classes often depends not only on patient's individual BP response but also presence/absence of certain comorbid conditions where one class might confer extra benefits over another e.g., Calcium Channel Blockers might be preferred choice if there's concomitant anginal symptoms while an ARB would best suit someone having kidney disease alongwith hypertension.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Arb typically prescribed?

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) typically start at dosages of 20–80 mg/day, depending on the specific medication and condition being treated. Studies suggest that for most people with high blood pressure, this initial dosage is often effective. However, in some cases such as heart failure or kidney disease, higher doses may be required. On the other hand, calcium channel blockers are usually started at lower doses and gradually increased if necessary. For both ARBs and Calcium Channel Blockers, children's dosages need to be calculated based on their weight and should always be determined by a healthcare provider. Regardless of whether an individual is taking an ARB or a calcium channel blocker, it's important not to exceed the maximum daily dose recommended by your doctor.

At what dose is Calcium Channel Blocker typically prescribed?

Treatment with Calcium Channel Blockers is usually initiated at a dosage range of 30-60 mg/day, taken orally. The dose can then be increased to 120-540 mg/day, divided into two or three doses depending on the specific medication and individual patient response. This should be spaced evenly throughout the day in order to maintain consistent blood levels of the drug for optimal therapeutic effect. In certain severe cases, if there is no significant response observed after several weeks at this level of therapy, doses up to as high as 720 mg/day may be tested under careful medical supervision. As always, dosing will depend on the specific calcium channel blocker being used and individual patient factors such as age, weight and other concurrent health conditions.

What are the most common side effects for Arb?

Common side effects of Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) can include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness due to a drop in blood pressure
  • Elevated potassium levels which may cause muscle weakness, slow heart rate and fatigue
  • Occasional sinusitis (sinus inflammation)
  • Persistent cough

For Calcium Channel Blockers, the potential side effects might be:

  • Swelling in the lower legs and feet
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Nausea

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Arb?

While both ARBs (Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers) and Calcium Channel Blockers can be highly effective in managing high blood pressure, their side effects differ:

ARBs - Uncommon but serious side effects may include:

  • Allergic reactions such as hives, difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Swelling of the face or throat
  • A rapid increase in weight
  • Difficulty urinating or a decreased amount of urine
  • Signs of kidney problems like unable to pass urine, change in how much urine is passed, blood in the urine, or an unexpected weight gain

Calcium Channel Blockers - Serious side effects are rare but may include:

  • Rapid heartbeat (tachycardia) or very slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • Fainting spells due to low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath, especially during exercise
  • Swelling in your hands and feet -Severe dizziness or lightheadedness

If you experience any severe symptoms while taking either type of medication, seek immediate medical attention. Always remember that these medications should be administered under the supervision of a healthcare professional who can monitor your health condition closely.

What are the most common side effects for Calcium Channel Blocker?

Calcium Channel Blockers (CCBs) are another line of medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart-related conditions. However, they come with their own range of potential side effects:

  • Headache or dizziness
  • Fatigue or a sensation of warmth
  • Swelling in the feet and lower legs due to fluid buildup (edema)
  • A rash or flushing (warmth, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin)
  • Constipation or nausea
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Increased frequency of urination These side effects vary depending on the specific type of CCB prescribed and individual patient characteristics. It's crucial that you discuss these potential side effects with your healthcare provider before starting this form of medication.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Calcium Channel Blocker?

Calcium channel blockers are relatively safe, but in some cases, they can cause serious side effects. These may include:

  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Lightheadedness and fainting
  • Rapid weight gain with no discernable reason
  • Worsening chest pain (also known as angina) or a heart attack
  • Unusually slow heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath even with mild exertion or lying flat
  • Swelling in your hands, ankles or feet due to fluid retention

If you experience any of these adverse reactions while taking a calcium channel blocker, seek immediate medical attention.

Contraindications for Arb and Calcium Channel Blocker?

Both ARBs (Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers) and Calcium Channel Blockers, along with most other hypertension medications, may cause certain side effects in some individuals. If you notice symptoms like dizziness, swelling of the hands or feet, rapid weight gain or heart palpitations, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither ARBs nor Calcium Channel Blockers should be taken if you are taking medication for grapefruit juice related conditions. Always inform your doctor about all the medications and supplements you are currently taking; consuming grapefruit can interact with these drugs leading to potentially harmful side effects.

It is also important to mention that while on treatment with either of these classes of drugs especially calcium channel blockers one needs to monitor their blood pressure regularly as they could lead to a drop in blood pressure values requiring an adjustment in dosage.

How much do Arb and Calcium Channel Blocker cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 30 tablets of Norvasc (5 mg), a commonly prescribed calcium channel blocker, averages around $115. Using it once daily amounts to almost $3.83/day.
  • For ARBs (Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers), a month's supply of Diovan (80 mg) costs about $230, which works out to approximately $7.67/day.

Thus, if you are in the typical dosage range for both medications, then brand-name Norvasc is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis than Diovan. Please note that cost should not be your primary consideration when determining which drug is right for you.

On the other hand, generic versions - Amlodipine and Valsartan respectively - are significantly cheaper:

  • Generic Amlodipine can be found starting from as low as $0.10/day for an average dose.
  • Valsartan typically starts at around $0.40 per day.

Remember that medication prices can vary depending on insurance coverage and pharmacy location among other factors.

Popularity of Arb and Calcium Channel Blocker

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), such as losartan or valsartan, were prescribed to an estimated 85.7 million people in the US in 2018. ARBs account for a significant portion of antihypertensive prescriptions and have been generally increasing in prevalence over recent years due to their proven efficacy and better side effect profile compared to other classes of antihypertensive drugs.

On the other hand, calcium channel blockers like amlodipine were prescribed to approximately 48.5 million individuals across the United States during that same year. Calcium channel blockers make up a substantial part of hypertension treatment plans but represent slightly less than ARBs when it comes to overall antihypertensive prescriptions. The prevalence rates for usage of calcium channel blockers have remained relatively steady over the last decade.


Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) and calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are two widely used classes of medications for managing hypertension. Both have been extensively studied and proven to be more effective than placebos in reducing blood pressure levels. Occasionally, these drugs may be combined for patients who need additional blood pressure control, but this is subject to meticulous evaluation by a physician given the potential interactions.

ARBs function primarily by blocking the effect of angiotensin II, thus relaxing arterial muscles and enlarging arteries. On the other hand, CCBs work predominantly by slowing down or blocking the movement of calcium into cardiac muscle cells which relaxes blood vessels.

ARBs are often considered as first-line treatment choices for hypertension especially in patients with heart failure or diabetes with kidney disease; while CCBs are commonly used when ARBs aren't suitable or cause side effects like persistent cough.

Both ARBs and CCBs come in generic forms providing substantial cost savings particularly for out-of-pocket payers. It's worth noting that both types might require some time before their full effectiveness becomes apparent.

In terms of safety profile, both groups exhibit similar mild side effects such as dizziness, fatigue and headache although specific side-effects can vary between them - edema is more common with CCB use whereas dry cough is associated more frequently with ARB usage. Patients should closely monitor their symptoms when starting these treatments and seek immediate medical assistance if they experience serious adverse reactions like significant swelling or difficulty breathing.