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If you are taking beta blockers for your blood pressure, then you may find the following information of some interest. Beta blockers are good for blood pressure but if you do not have any coronary related condition, are they still good for you?
Why do doctors prescribe beta blockers? Usually beta blockers are given to patients with hypertension or blood pressure. But Dr. Raymond Bietry, a cardio specialist in New York City is of the opinion that they are better for treating patients with heart failure rather than hypertension. Beta blockers are one of the better known fall back medication that can be given to patients considered to be high-risk for cardiovascular diseases. However the same beta blockers may not be the best solution when the patient exhibits no coronary related ailments whatsoever and is prescribed beta blockers just for blood pressure.
The Journal of American Medical Association recently published research findings that proved that while beta blockers are efficient at reducing risk of infarctions for persons with a history of heart attacks, their effect is negligible for those who are considered at risk but have yet to suffer an attack. Why then are US doctors so free and willing to prescribe beta blockers to millions of patients? Beta blockers have traditionally been prescribed to patients with heart diseases or for those recently diagnosed with coronary disease. Incidentally they have also been regularly given to patients with high blood pressure, irregular heart beats and even to treat some non coronary diseases like glaucoma or migraines. Maybe it is time to ask the question if doing the latter is really beneficial and if the benefits outweigh the hidden dangers and risks?
Taking beta blockers is not without side effects. Shortness of breath and constipation are quite common occurrences for a percentage of people who take beta blockers. Dr. Andrew Freeman of the Cardiology Centre at National Jewish Health stresses that these symptoms must be studied as part of a patient’s comprehensive medical history and not to be taken lightly. He explains the importance of having a frank and in-depth discussion with your doctor regarding both benefits and side effects if you are prescribed beta blockers.
When the body undergoes stress, beta receptors which are prevalent in many of our body tissues, including heart tissue, get turned on. When they are activated, adrenalin is released into the blood system. This is what causes the flight-or-fight syndrome and our instincts take over. The brain senses the danger, injects the necessary adrenalin to give us speed or increase rapidity and response time to external stimulus, even to a point where we don’t sense pain as the body protectively goes into shock. When beta receptors affect the heart tissue frequently they can influence swelling and even change the shape of the heart tissue leading to tissue damage. Beta blockers are thus vital in stopping this consequence of reaction to stress, especially when it becomes detrimental to the cardiovascular tissue.
There are a number of beta blockers on the market but they are fundamentally similar in function. They block the adverse effects of adrenalin and other neurohormones. Essentially they slow down the heartbeat, facilitating the opening up of blood vessels by making the blood flow smoothly and with less force. Different types of beta blockers are regularly prescribed for different conditions. Carvedilol is mainly for patients with chronic angina or persons who have recently suffered coronary attacks, while Zabeta is more often prescribed for persons suffering from migraines. Timoptic, Istalol and Betimol are usually given to patients of glaucoma.
Diuretics or water pills and changes in lifestyle are not to be under estimated when looking at alternative options for treating blood pressure. Some of the more common changes that can be implemented are quitting smoking, losing weight, taking up sports and better management of stress through yoga and meditation. To those without a history of cardiovascular ailments, beta blockers are given when other solutions have failed or when necessary lifestyle changes are not adequate. But keep in mind that taking beta blockers may mean some mild side effects such as headaches, diarrhea, nausea, constipation, cold feet and hands, loss of sex drive, extreme tiredness may be unavoidable. In extreme cases severe side effects may include difficulty in breathing, insomnia, dizziness and even depression.
A patient’s complete medical history must be considered before prescribing any type of beta blockers. And if side effects continue to trouble the patient after a week or two, they need to be quickly brought to the attention of one’s doctor, even if they seem to be just mild side effects. Your doctor can then vary the dosage or change the type of beta blocker altogether to see if another type may be more suitable for you.
Recent research has confirmed that older adults who take beta blockers for the sole purpose of lowering blood pressure are at a higher risk from falling injuries than those who don’t. Depression is another serious side effect of taking this medication that needs to be taken seriously. Dr. Raymond Bietry of Mount Sinai hospital in New York City says he has seen patients come out of depression once they stopped taking beta blockers. He stresses that this complex issue merits serious research before proper conclusions can be drawn with some finality.
Side effects of beta blockers depend on a person’s medical history and life style and whatever current medications they take for other existing conditions like asthma. Metoprolol a new beta blocker has been proven to be better for people with non-severe asthma. And the FDA recently approved Ivabradine, which proved to be better in minimizing risk of shortness of breath as a side effect compared to other similar beta blockers. Nevertheless all changes in intake of a particular beta blocker, even stopping to take a prescribed one, or a change in brand, in short any changes to your beta blocker routine need to be addressed to your doctor ASAP.
Some of the more common non-cardiovascular related use of beta blockers is to treat glaucoma, help reduce migraines, and to help in stress management and anxiety attacks. Beta blockers may also play a significant role by preventing the formation of cancerous cells in the lung, though this research is still in its infancy and needs to be further explored. Through different studies, we now know that early interventions in lifestyles changes, in nutrition and exercise and medication to lower systolic blood pressure show a positive effect on reducing risk of cardiovascular diseases later on in life. For instance adults who took part in the study and who managed to lower blood pressure down to 120 had decreased risk from heart attack, coronary failure and other heart related complications by a third. The recommended blood pressure level is usually around 140 or below.
This means that more doctors are likely to prescribe beta blockers as a preventive measure to lower risk from coronary diseases later on.
In the end the trump card is actually within all our means and accessible to every one of us – Lifestyle changes. One only needs the proper determination and motivation to stick to a plan to reduce other risk factors that are conducive to high blood pressure. Someone who has had a heart attack and once recovered can makes so many changes to their lifestyle that he or she can get away with just a small dose of beta blocker medication, provided they follow an adapted healthy lifestyle.
Three keys things to keep in mind are exercise, right type of food and stress management. These, according to doctors and experts in the field go a long way in preventing the need for medication to lower blood pressure as they work on the cause and hence eliminate the need for medication in the first place. Awareness, moderation and motivation to embrace a holistic approach in managing this condition is the ideal means to reduce risk of complications that arise due to blood pressure.
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