The present review aims to analyze the role of calcium-channel blockers, and particularly newer molecules, as first-line therapy for cerebrovascular disease. BACKGROUND: Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the general population. Among traditional cardiovascular risk factors, hypertension has a key role in the genesis of both hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke and a direct correlation exists between blood pressure values and the risk of stroke. Moreover, blood pressure reduction has been demonstrated to be the most important route to reduce stroke incidence and recurrence. However, the mere reduction of blood pressure values does not normalize the cardiovascular risk of the hypertensive patient. It is therefore necessary to use drug classes that beyond their blood pressure-lowering effect have also an additional effect in terms of organ protection. Among these, calcium-channel blockers have a crucial profile. Firstly, they are effective in inducing left ventricular hypertrophy regression, with a strength at least equal to that of ACE-inhibitors. Secondly, they have an antithrombotic and an endothelium-protecting effect, mediated by their antioxidant activity. Finally, calcium-channel blockers are the most powerful drugs in preventing vascular remodeling. For these reasons this drug class has probably the strongest antiatherosclerotic effect, and it is the first-choice treatment mainly for cerebrovascular disease. Among different available calcium-channel blockers, the newer ones seem to possess pharmacokinetic characteristics allowing a more homogeneous 24 hours coverage as compared to older molecules, and preliminary data seem to suggest a greater beneficial effect also on left ventricular hypertrophy and lower incidence of side effects. CONCLUSIONS: Although blood pressure reduction is the main tool to reduce cerebrovascular risk in hypertensive patients, some drug classes, such as calcium-channel blockers, seem to provide a protective action beyond the mere antihypertensive effect, and represent a key element in the prevention of atherosclerosis.
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