Beta Blockers: What are They and how can They Help?

Beta blockers are also called beta-adrenergic blocking agents. They help treat several conditions like high blood pressure, migraines, anxiety and other conditions related to the heart such as heart failure. If you are interested in learning more about beta blockers, continue reading below. Here we will discuss what beta blockers are exactly and how they can help treat your condition. Please note that I am not a doctor, and if you have any questions reach out to a healthcare professional you trust.

What are Beta Blockers?

As previously mentioned beta blockers are beta-adrenergic blocking agents. More specifically, they are drugs that block norepinephrine and epinephrine from binding to beta receptors on nerves. Norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) are made from nerves within the body, including the adrenal gland and they act as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are basically chemicals that allow nerves to communicate.

There are actually three different types of beta-receptors, including β1 (beta-1), β2, and β3 receptors. Each type of beta-receptors control certain functions determined by their location within the body. For example, the list below demonstrates each specific location:

  • β1 receptors: heart, eye, and kidneys
  • β2 receptors: skeletal muscle, lungs, liver, uterus, blood vessels, and the gastrointestinal tract
  • β3 receptors: fat cells

Beta blockers help reduce your blood pressure by blocking β1 and β2 (or blocking the norepinephrine and epinephrine). These medications make your heart beat slower and with less force, which leads to reduced blood pressure. Also, beta blockers help blood vessels open up and therefore improves blood flow.

Beta Blocker Examples

Here is a list of the different examples of brand and generic names for beta blockers available:

  • betaxolol (Kerlone)
  • betaxolol (Betoptic S)
  • carvedilol (Coreg)
  • esmolol (Brevibloc)
  • penbutolol (Levatol)
  • sotalol (Betapace, Sorine)
  • timolol ophthalmic solution (Timoptic, Betimol, Istalol)

In addition to the list above, there are also oral beta blockers, including the following:

  • acebutolol (Sectral)
  • atenolol (Tenormin)
  • bisoprolol (Zebeta)
  • metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
  • nadolol (Corgard)
  • nebivolol (Bystolic)
  • propranolol (Hemangeol, Inderal LA, Inderal XL, InnoPran XL)

If you want more information concerning a certain kind of beta blocker, speak to your doctor. Your healthcare professional will be able to provide you with assistance and help you decide what is right for you.

Pros

There are some pros for beta blockers. They can help prevent, treat, and/or improve symptoms found in several conditions. These conditions include: high blood pressure, arrhythmia (or abnormal heart rhythm), heart failure, heart pain (angina), heart attacks, migraines, glaucoma, Pheochromocytoma (PCC), and certain kinds of tremors.

In addition to helping treat certain conditions as listed previously, beta blockers can also prevent future heart attacks. Beta blockers can even help treat conditions like De Quervain’s thyroiditis and Silent Thyroiditis through the treatment of hyperthyroidism. They can be used in other treatment options like akathisia or restlessness, panic disorder, anxiety, and aggressive behavior.

Cons

In addition to pros, there are some cons associated with beta blockers. Side effects can occur, which means you need to be cautious of what you are taking. Common side effects are fatigue, weight gain, cold hands and/or feet. Other common side effects include shortness of breath, trouble sleeping, and depression.

There are specific groups of people who are more likely to have health risk while undergoing beta blocker treatment. People with asthma do not tend to use beta blockers because the medications can trigger severe asthma attacks. People who have diabetes should also not use beta blockers for treatment because the medications can block signs of low blood sugar.

Additionally, beta blockers can also negatively impact your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They can increase your triglyceride levels while decreasing high-density lipoprotein levels (the “good” kind of cholesterol).

Because there are several possible side effects and health risks, should you be concerned with exercising? The answer depends on what your condition is like. It depends on how severe your condition is to determine whether or not exercise is a good idea for you. This is why it is important to speak to a doctor you trust to see if you should be concerned about exercise. However, you should still take it slow and not overdo it.

In sum…

Beta blockers can be very advantageous during your treatment process. However, it is important to be aware of the possible side effects and health risks associated with beta blockers. Although the information listed above was researched, it is important to reiterate that I am not a doctor.

Finally, it is important that you do not suddenly stop taking your beta blocker. An abrupt stop can increase the risk of a heart attack or other heart problems.

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