What Are Beta Blockers Used For?

what is a beta blocker

Coronary heart disease now tops the cause-of-death list worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 18 million people died from coronary vascular disease in 2016.

Heart problems are killing our world.

Our health officials will say we need to eat more salad and go for more walks. While a healthy lifestyle will affect heart disease, it cannot stop it for some patients. Genetics plays a role.

Thankfully, scientists understand the need for modern medicine and intervention. A beta blocker is among the medications doctors prescribe to help with heart health.

What is a beta blocker? Keep reading to learn all that you need to know about this critical treatment for heart disease.

What is a Beta Blocker?

Your body is an amazing machine. When you experience the stress of any kind, your body begins to produce a hormone called adrenaline.

The adrenaline triggers a response in your body that prepares it to battle the stress. Scientists call this response the fight-or-flight response. Your body prepares itself to either battle the stressful situation or to flee from the situation.

So your heart begins to beat faster, pumping more blood to the muscles that need to fight or flee.

Sometimes the stress your experience does not require a fight or flight, though. If you have a looming deadline on your mind, and you cannot sleep, you experience this adrenaline surge. That kind of stress does not compare to witnessing an active shooter walking through your office door.

Your body does not know the difference, though. It only knows stress. As a result, if you tend to stress out over smaller details, your body will move into that fight-or-flight response quickly and cause your heart undue stress.

The end result of such stress is high blood pressure and ultimately heart problems.

Beta-blockers block the effects of the adrenaline your body produces in the midst of that stress. It slows your heart rate, easing the force your heart uses to squeeze blood through it.

As a result, your blood pressure goes down, and your heart does not work as hard.

Beta Blocker Names

Beta blockers are not simply called “beta blockers” on the label. They come in several names. Here are a few:

  • Acebutolol (Sectral)
  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Betaxolol (Kerlone)
  • Bisoprolol (Zebeta, Ziac)
  • Carteolol (Cartrol)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate)
  • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
  • Nadolol (Corgard)
  • Nebivolol (Bystolic)
  • Penbutolol (Levatol)
  • Pindolol (Visken)
  • Propanolol (Inderal)
  • Sotalol (Betapace)
  • Timolol (Blocadren)

What do Beta Blockers Treat?

Because of their effectiveness, doctors will use beta blockers to treat a handful of conditions.

If you’re experiencing high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely begin with a diuretic. But if that does not work effectively, he or she will move on to a bet blocker as a potential solution.

Beta blockers can treat irregular heart rhythm as well, also known as arrhythmia. In this case, your heart isn’t beating with a regular rhythm. The beta blocker slows the heart, allowing it to beat in regular rhythm again.

Doctors will also use beta blockers to prevent heart failure, as it will slow a patient’s heart down and keep it calmer overall.

If you suffer from angina or chest pain, your doctor may use beta blockers. This wonder drug also prevents heart attacks.

Prior to beta blockers, patients with a high-stress load would just tolerate the adrenaline rush that came with the stress. They might even attempt to self medicate with unhealthy measures like alcohol or tobacco.

Beta blockers allow a patient to respond more calmly to the stress, and they give the patient’s heart a break in situations that do not warrant fight or flight.

Doctors have also found success in treating both migraines and certain types of tremors with beta blockers. .

What are the Side Effects of a Beta Blocker?

As with all medications, beta blockers have side effects. Patients on beta blockers commonly complain of cold hands or feet, fatigue, and weight gain.

Patients may also experience depression, shortness of breath, and trouble sleeping when taking beta blockers. These side effects can occur but are less common.

Doctors have concerns for their patients with asthma on beta blockers. They hesitate to use beta blockers with asthma because the medication may trigger asthma attacks.

Also, individuals with diabetes need to be cautious when using beta blockers. A rapid heart beat for a diabetic means low blood sugar. However, beta blockers slow the heart down, removing that sign.

Diabetics on beta blocks should check their blood sugar regularly.

Ironically, beta blockers can negatively affect cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Patients taking beta blockers may see a slight rise in their bad cholesterol (triglycerides) and slight dip in their good cholesterol (lipoprotein). These changes typically do not last.

Beta blockers make some serious changes to your body. So if you’re experiencing a negative side effect, contact your doctor. Do not stop taking the medication abruptly.

Who Should Not Take Beta Blockers?

Beta blocker are not for everyone. Doctors understand the risks best and will often not prescribe them for specific patients for a reason.

For example, older people and African-Americans do not respond as well to beta blockers.

Because beta blockers can trigger an asthma attack, doctors typically do not prescribe them for anyone with breathing problems such as asthma or COPD.

Individuals with very low blood pressure, a heart block, or a slow pulse should not take beta blockers. This powerful medication can actually make these patients’ symptoms worse.

Doctors will also hesitate to prescribe beta blockers to pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding because of the risk to the fetus.  Patients who are currently taking a beta blocker should also tell their doctor if they’re trying to get pregnant because of the risk to the fetus with this powerful medication.

Drug Interactions

Medication is tricky. Often, when a patient needs a beta blocker, he may also have other mitigating health problems. He may even be on other medications.

Beta blockers can interact negatively with a number of medicines.

Let your doctor know if you’re on the following medications if he mentions putting you on a beta blocker:

  • Anti-hypertensives
  • Anti-anginal drugs
  • Anti-arrhythmics
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Anti-ulcer medications
  • Anesthetics
  • Warfarin
  • HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors

Calm Your Heart, Reduce Your Stress

So, what is a beta blocker? It slows down your heart, and it ultimately helps reduce the negative stress that can cause heart disease.

For all of your pharmaceutical needs, contact us.