Beta-blockers are one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in medical practice. They work by blocking the action of adrenaline (adrenaline) in tissues, in particular by blocking "beta receptors" that bind to adrenaline. Among other things, blocking beta receptors slows down the heart rate, decreases the force of contraction of the heart muscle, reduces the amount of oxygen the heart muscle needs to function, reduces stress on the vascular system, and tends to lower levels. blood. pressure .
When are beta blockers used?
Given these effects, it is not surprising that beta-blockers have been shown to be beneficial in treating a variety of medical conditions, especially cardiovascular disease. This includes:
Beta-blockers are the first line of treatment for people with stable angina. In these people, beta-blockers slow down the heart rate and reduce the force of contraction of the heart muscle. Both of these effects prevent or delay the onset of heart muscle ischemia and therefore reduce the risk of an angina attack.
For the same reasons, in the vast majority of cases, beta-blockers are an important part of heart attack treatment. These drugs reduce heart ischemia during an acute heart attack and help prevent future heart attacks.
They are also an important part of heart failure therapy . These drugs significantly reduce excess stress on the heart muscle and allow the heart to do more work with less energy.
In people with atrial fibrillation, beta-blockers are a key component in achieving adequate heart rate control .
Beta-blockers were among the first drugs of the modern era to be shown to be effective in treating hypertension and have been the first-line drugs for the condition for many years. However, in recent years, research has shown that many of the newer drugs for hypertension, particularly thiazide diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and ARBs, are more effective for control blood pressure and improve people's condition. with hypertension.
Today, beta-blockers are commonly used as second-line therapy for hypertension in people for whom other medications are not effective enough.
Frequently used beta-blockers
Given the many uses of beta-blockers, it is not surprising that pharmaceutical companies have developed quite a few of them. Here is a list of the most commonly used beta-blockers (common name – brand name) :
- Acebutolol – Sectral
- Atenolol – Tenormin
- Betaxolol – Curlon
- Bisoprolol – Zebeta, also sold as Ziak
- Carteolol – Cartrol
- Carvedilol – Coreg
- Labetalol – Normodin, also sold as Trandat
- Metoprolol – Lopressor, also sold as Toprol
- Nadolol – Korgard
- Penbutolol – Levatol
- Propranolol – Inderal, Inderal LA
- Timolol – Blokadren
How to take beta-blockers
Obviously, there are many different beta-blockers, and specific instructions on how often and when to take them will vary from drug to drug. However, as a general rule, the side effects of beta-blockers can be minimized by taking them with food, leading to a more gradual absorption of these drugs .
Side effects of beta blockers
The side effects of beta-blockers are mainly related to their main mechanism of action, that is, their adrenaline-blocking effects .
Side effects of beta blockers include:
- Worsening of symptoms in people with asthma. This is perhaps the most limiting side effect of beta-blockers, making it difficult or impossible to use these medications in people with asthma.
- Worsening of symptoms in people with peripheral arterial disease .
- Increased chance of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in people with diabetes .
- Cold hands
- Sexual dysfunction
Pregnant women should avoid the use of beta-blockers if possible, as they can affect the baby, causing a slow heart rate, a drop in blood pressure and blood sugar .
In general, the side effects of beta-blockers can often be controlled by carefully choosing which beta-blocker to choose and trying to use lower doses.
Get the word of drug information
Beta-blockers have proven to be very helpful in treating various medical conditions, and as a consequence, they are commonly prescribed. While they can cause a number of side effects that can limit their usefulness, in most cases the correct medication and dosage can be found so that people who benefit from beta-blockers can take them.