Examples of Beta-Blockers
Beta-adrenergic-blocking agents: acebutolol (Sectral); atenolol (Tenormin); betaxolol (Kerlone); bisoprolol fumarate (Zebeta); esmolol (Brevibloc) used for abnormal heartbeat; Levobunolol; metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL); nadolol (Corgard); Oxyprenolol; Penbutolol sulfate (Levatol); pindolol (Betapindol, Calvisken, Decreten, Durapindol Visken); propranolol (Betachron E-R, Inderal, Inderal LA, Avlocardyl, Deralin, Dociton, Inderalici, InnoPran XL, Sumial); sotalol HCl (Betapace, Sotalex, Sotacor) used for irregular heartbeat; timolol maleate (Blocadren)
Alpha/beta-adrenergic blockers: arotinolol (Almarl), carvedilol (Coreg, Dilatrend, Eucardic, Carloc), celiprolol (Cardem, Celectol, Celipres, Celipro, Celol, Cordiax, Dilanorm, Selectol), labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate)
Beta-blockers, or beta-adrenergic-blocking drugs, are somewhat outdated, but some physicians still use them to treat high blood pressure. The downside of these drugs is that they can actually cause CHF, heart attacks, strokes, and asthma. Beta-blockers can cause serious arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) and may worsen blood vessel problems that reduce circulation to the extremities, such as in diabetes. Asthmatics should never take a beta-blocker as it may trigger life-threatening airway spasms.
According to an article published in a 2007 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that reviewed 10 studies on using beta-blockers to control high blood pressure, diuretics and other blood pressure drugs work better to control blood pressure and have fewer side effects. The article points out that beta-blockers may be useful for treating patients who have had a heart attack or who have heart failure, but they shouldn’t be routinely used to treat high blood pressure.
For years beta-blockers have been routinely given to patients who might be or are at risk of heart disease, before they have surgery. The practice is said to reduce the risk of heart attack and abnormal heart rhythms after surgery. The POISE (perioperative ischemic evaluation) study, a large, double-blind study out of Canada and published in the journal The Lancet, found that compared to a placebo, patients who were given beta-blockers before surgery were one-third more likely to die within a month, had doubled the risk of stroke, and were more likely to have clinically low blood pressure or low heart rate. The specific beta-blocker used in this study was metoprolol (Toprol).
Beta-blockers can cause serious new arrhythmias, dangerously low blood pressure, abnormally slow heart rates, CHF, heart attacks, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, and reduced white blood cell count, and they interact dangerously with many other drugs.
What Do They Do in the Body? Beta-blockers reduce blood pressure by slowing the heart rate, reducing the force of contractions of the heart muscle, and relaxing the arteries.
What Are They Prescribed For? High blood pressure, especially in combination with a thiazide diuretic, and many other heart disease symptoms such as angina, irregular heartbeat, and recovery from some types of heart attacks, migraines, tremors, and anxiety.
What Are the Possible Side Effects? Dozens of “adverse effects” have been reported by people taking beta-blockers, which are listed on the drug information insert. If you have any type of new symptoms while on this drug, even if you have been on it for a long time, check with your physician and read the drug information insert. If you don’t have the insert, either ask your pharmacist for one or look it up online. See the “Resources and Recommended Reading” section at the back of this book for online sources of drug information.
Dizziness and fatigue are two of the most common complaints of people on these drugs. That may mean they’re taking too much. These side effects are considered “mild” by drug companies and physicians, but they can cause depression and reduce the activities you can participate in—yet another good reason to lower your blood pressure naturally!
A large, double-blind, multicenter randomized trial (the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Cardiac Arrhythmia Suppression Trial) found that in certain types of heart attack patients, some beta-blockers caused a significantly higher death rate and risk of a second heart attack compared to patients who did nothing.
Beta-blockers can cause serious arrhythmias and may worsen blood vessel problems that reduce circulation to the extremities, such as in diabetes. They can also lead to cardiac failure by overdepressing the ability of the heart to contract.
Like all drugs that are prescribed to lower blood pressure, beta-blockers can easily send blood pressure too far in the other direction, causing hypotension, or low blood pressure. Symptoms of hypotension include dizziness when standing, sweating, and fatigue.
Other side effects can include muscle weakness, dizziness, hypo- and hyperglycemia, impotence, eye problems, worsening of lung problems, depression, joint pain, and rarely, anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
Kidney and liver damage may be made worse by beta-blockers and can cause unpredictable increases in drug levels.
Some beta-blockers can send your cholesterol levels in the opposite direction that you want them to go: increased LDL, VLDL, VH, and triglycerides, and decreased HDL.
Sudden withdrawal from beta-blockers can be dangerous.
The beta-blockers propranolol and atenolol reduce the nighttime production of melatonin, a brain hormone essential for good sleep. Melatonin deficiency has been implicated in breast cancer.
Beta-blockers can deplete CoQ10, which can cause fatigue and muscle pain.
Think Twice About Taking These Drugs If . . .
• You have CHF or irregular heartbeat.
• You have asthma or other lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Most beta-blockers can suppress symptoms of diabetes and an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Since beta-blockers can cause or prolong hypoglycemia, use caution if you are diabetic.
What Are the Interactions with Food? Taking atenolol (Tenormin) and sotalol (Betapace) with food may reduce or slow their action. Taking labetalol (Normodyne, Trandate), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol), and propanolol (Inderal) with food may increase drug levels. Taking propanolol with a high-protein meal or with alcohol may increase drug levels even more.
Other Tips on These Drugs. They may interfere with glucose tolerance tests, insulin tests, glaucoma tests, and a variety of other blood and urine tests.
Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Free, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore & Maintain Your Health, by Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph, Ph. D, & Virginia Hopkins, M.A. Published by McGraw-Hill.