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UMDNJ Cardiologist Warns of Potential Dangers of Specific Citrus Fruits
For Those Taking Prescription Heart Medications
(2/23/06)—Heart patients who depend on daily medications to control blood pressure, aid circulation and reduce cholesterol should avoid indulging in certain citrus fruits that may intensify these medications, says a cardiologist with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
Grapefruit, tangelo--a hybrid of grapefruit and tangerine--limes and Seville oranges, a type of bitter orange used primarily in preserves, can increase the potency levels of many heart drugs, including blood circulation and cholesterol medications, says Dr. Muhamed Saric, a professor of medicine at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark. These fruits may possibly trigger detrimental side effects when associated with these types of drugs.
"Taking a cholesterol-lowering drug, for example, and then waiting a few hours before eating a grapefruit is not a solution to this problem," Dr. Saric said. "The effect of a single glass of grapefruit juice or eating a half grapefruit may last for days in someone who has taken prescribed heart drugs."
Calcium channel blockers such as Norvasc, Cardizem, Plendil and Procardia, will become intensified with indulgence in these specific citrus fruits, he noted. Lipitor, Mevacor and Zocor, popular cholesterol-lowering drugs, also may have an undesirable effect and likely will register higher-than-anticipated levels of these medications in the blood because of interactions with enzymes in patients' systems.
Only a portion of these drugs will activate in the intestines and ever actually reach a patient's circulatory system, Dr. Saric explained.
He advised those who take these heart medications to seek advice from their physicians or ask pharmacists about potential side effects or interactions of certain foods with medications. He said that sweet oranges, lemons, tangerines and citrons typically do not interact negatively with heart medications.
February is National Heart Month. The American Heart Association says that coronary heart disease and stroke are the number one and three killers, respectively, of Americans. They advise people to avoid tobacco, exercise regularly, eat foods with good nutritional value, have your blood pressure and cholesterol level checked periodically, reduce stress and limit alcohol intake.