Side Effects of Medication: Amlodipine and Weight Gain

Dr. Christopher McGowan
noviembre 30, 2022

Being overweight or obese is known to increase the risk for high blood pressure, but it can also make high blood pressure worse if it was already an issue. A further complication for those with high blood pressure is that the medications meant to treat the condition may lead to unexplained weight gain. One example of a blood pressure medication that may include weight gain as a possible side effect is amlodipine, sold under brand names like Norvasc, Istin, and Norliqva. But how much weight can you actually gain? And how can it be avoided? 

What to Know About High Blood Pressure

It is estimated that nearly half the United States population suffers from high blood pressure (hypertension), and it is also common around the world. Hypertension is a long-term condition in which blood pressure is persistently elevated, and this essentially means that the force of blood being pumped through arteries is too strong. Over time, elevated blood pressure can cause damage to the arteries, blood vessels, and other organs, and this can eventually lead to the development of conditions like heart disease, heart failure, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and a number of other negative health outcomes. 

The precise cause of high blood pressure isn’t fully understood, but decades of research points to a variety of factors that play a role. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, high salt content in the diet, and being overweight or obese are all linked with high blood pressure. There is also a significant amount of evidence that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol can lead to a build up of material in the inner layer of arterial walls. This buildup, known as plaque, slowly constricts the flow of blood through the arteries and thereby increases blood pressure.  

What is Amlodipine?         

Amlodipine besylate is a prescription drug that is used to treat high blood pressure in adults and even in children over the age of six. Amlodipine is sometimes used in combination with other medications that have complementary effects; examples include angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors) like lisinopril or beta blockers like metoprolol. It can also be used as a treatment option for some types of chest pain and other conditions related to the heart. Amlodipine is often favored among high blood pressure drugs because it provides greater protection against stroke than other options. Amlodipine was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1990, and it is now one of the most widely prescribed medicines in the United States.    

How Does Amlodipine Work?

Amlodipine belongs to a class of drugs known as calcium channel blockers because of the way they impact the ability of calcium to enter the cells that make up the arteries and heart. Calcium causes the smooth muscle of the heart and blood vessels to contract, so by blocking calcium receptors in those cells, the muscles relax and it becomes easier for blood to pump throughout the body and consequently cause lower blood pressure. This same effect also works to relieve the kind of chest pain (angina) that is related to insufficient blood and oxygen supply to the heart.    

What Are the Side Effects of Amlodipine?

The potential side effects of amlodipine are dose dependent, so the higher the dose, the higher the chance. One of the most common side effects of amlodipine is swelling in the extremities (peripheral edema). The main reason for this is the vasodilation effect that is at the heart of the drug’s effectiveness at treating high blood pressure. As the medication relaxes arteries and increases blood flow, blood pressure overall goes down, but the increased flow actually puts more pressure on smaller capillaries all over the body. This, in turn, leads to fluid in the bloodstream seeping out into the surrounding tissue and causing the tissue to swell. Below are some additional known adverse effects: 

  • headaches
  • nausea 
  • dizziness 
  • fatigue or drowsiness
  • stomach pain or indigestion 
  • heart palpitations (irregular heart rate)
  • flushing (warmth or redness in the skin)

The Connection Between Amlodipine and Weight Gain   

Some patients taking amlodipine have reported gaining weight while on the drug, but it is not considered a common side effect. The most likely explanation for weight gain is related to the fluid retention common to blood pressure medications that function as vasodilators. As noted above, the increased blood flow can cause fluid (mostly water) to build up in the arms and lower legs. This swelling can result in a minor increase in body weight, but in most cases the effect is temporary and typically resolves on its own after taking the medication for some time.  

How to Avoid Gaining Weight

If fluid retention continues to be a problem while taking amlodipine, you should consult with your doctor about switching to other blood pressure meds. In general, though, there are several ways to counteract the effects of fluid buildup and avoid the added water weight. One practical way is to simply raise the affected limbs above the level of the heart for about 30 minutes three or four times a day. This will reduce the swelling and eventually the extra fluid will pass through urination. For more persistent fluid retention, there are a number of additional steps that can be taken: 

  • Massage: firmly massaging the affected limbs can help push fluid out of the area
  • Exercise: moving around and using the muscles in the arms and legs can bring the fluid concentration back into balance in the body 
  • Compression garments: usually worn after swelling has subsided, compression socks or sleeves can prevent more swelling from happening again
  • Less salt: too much salt in your diet can draw additional fluid into the bloodstream and then into tissues surrounding blood vessels, so lowering your salt intake can have the opposite effect 
  • Medication: diuretics like hydrochlorothiazide are pills taken orally that promote the excretion of water throughout the body and cause it to be expelled via the kidneys and in the form of urine    

Finding a Long-Term Approach to Weight Loss

Seeing an increase in body weight can be frustrating or disappointing for anyone, though an increase in weight due to fluid retention is a temporary condition. Amlodipine may potentially cause a patient to gain some excess water weight, but it doesn’t actually promote the kind of weight gain we typically associate with being overweight or obese. Also, virtually any kind of weight gain that happens over a short period of time is likely an indicator of a deeper problem that will require medical advice from a healthcare professional. 

Weight gain that happens gradually is most often due to a variety of factors that include, but are not limited to, lifestyle choices like diet and exercise. If you’ve been trying to lose weight without long-term success, you’re not alone. At True You Weight Loss, we are dedicated to helping people find long-term solutions that take the weight off and keep it off. If you’d like to learn more about alternative solutions like ESG or weight loss medications, please contact us today to solicitar una consulta. Freedom is waiting!

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan
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