Beta-blockers are a class of drugs that work by blocking the effect of the hormone adrenaline. By doing so, they reduce the load off your heart and lower blood pressure.

But there are different types of beta-blockers, and they are not equally effective against heart disorders. So, the choice of medicine may be different for everyone.

Like other medications, beta-blockers may cause side effects.

Keep reading to understand more about beta-blockers, side effects caused by them, benefits, dosage, and how it may help you.

The article also talks about lifestyle modifications that can boost the effect of these medicines.

Beta Blocker: What Is It?

As mentioned before, beta-blockers are a class of drugs that prevents the effect of adrenaline on your heart. They are often used to manage high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and after heart attacks.

They may also help for:

  • Migraines
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Tremors
  • Glaucoma
  • Hyperthyroidism

Your doctor may prescribe beta-blockers for hypertension when other drugs such as diuretics are not working or may not suit you. They may be used alone or in combination with other medications for the same.

How Do Beta Blockers Work?

Basically, they prevent the action of adrenaline, promoting relaxation of the heart and blood vessels. So, your heart will beat less forcefully and slower. 

Adrenaline is a hormone produced by your body during stressful events that contract muscles. It also results in excessive sweating, high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations, and anxiety.

They lower the stress on your heart by blocking adrenaline action, taking the pressure off the heart and blood vessels. It also prevents the risk of heart attacks and death due to heart complications.

Types of Beta-Blockers

Besides, there are different types of beta-blockers

Beta-blockers are classified as being non-selective and selective. 

  • Non-selective beta-blockers, such as propranolol, are active in blocking adrenaline and noradrenaline in other areas of the body, as well as the heart. This can cause some unwanted side effects, including cold hands and a predisposition to asthma attacks.
  • Selective beta-blockers, such as atenolol and bisoprolol, are commonly used by cardiologists because their activity mostly affects the heart and has less pronounced effects on other parts of the body.

Non-selective beta-blockers acts on the following receptors throughout the body:

  • Beta-1 receptors, present in the heart and regulate the activity of your heart
  • Beta-2 receptors, present in many organs and relaxes smooth muscles
  • Beta-3 receptors, which aid break down fat cells

So, which is the ideal option for you?

Well, there is no single answer. Your doctor may consider the following to decide the best option for you:

  • The problem being treated
  • History of other conditions
  • Risk of side effects
  • Medication you might be taking

There is another group, the third-generation beta-blockers. Common examples include labetalol, carvedilol, and nebivolol.

Research on these groups of drugs is still being carried out. It is seen that they may work better for people with metabolic disorders.

Lastly, beta-blockers have additional benefits of preventing thinning of bones and promoting stronger bones.

Beta Blockers and Treating Heart Disease

Beta-blockers have the following action on your heart:

  • Promote relaxation of the heart
  • Slow your heart rate
  • Prevent the production of harmful substance produced during heart failure
  • Improve the heart’s pumping activity

If you have heart failure, you need beta-blockers, even if you do not have symptoms. Beta-blockers are prescribed for patients with heart failure and improve survival.

Heart Failure

Beta-blockers improve the life expectancy of heart failure patients, especially due to left ventricular impairment.

The use of this medicine is thus recommended in patients with abnormal left ventricular function regardless of the symptom severity. 

It may be used along with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors for the same.

Heart Rhythm Disorders

They slow down the heart rate and are thus used for atrial fibrillation and irregular heart rhythm. The use of this medicine usually reduces fatigue and palpitations associated with heart rhythm disorders.

Recurrent heart attacks

Cardio-selective beta-blockers reduce the risk of another heart attack in patients who already have had a heart attack. Experts recommend prescribing them for heart attack patients on the day of discharge, and the same should be continued throughout life.

Medication-Use

Usually, beta-blockers are not the first-line treatment for hypertension. It is used only if other medicines fail to work or cause side effects. However, they may be used along with other hypertensives to manage your condition.

They are used for people with:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attacks
  • Migraine
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Chest pain
  • Migraine
  • Some tremors

How to Use

Follow all the instructions on the patient information leaflet and those advised by your doctor.

Some general instructions include:

  • Take them orally, once daily, in the morning with or without food, or as prescribed by your physician.
  • Do not stop taking this medication abruptly without consulting your doctor. Stopping it suddenly may result in a heart attack, angina (chest pain), or irregular heartbeat. 
  • Try to take this tablet daily at the same time. 

Your physician may start you with a low dose and gradually increase your dose. It may take weeks before you see the full effects of the medication.

If You Miss the Dose

If you happen to miss a dose of Bisoprolol, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. 

However, if it is almost time for the next dose, do not take the missed dose and continue with your next scheduled dose. 

Do not take a double dose to compensate for the missed dose.

Prescription and Dosage

Your dose depends on your age and other conditions.

Adults

The standard dose is 5 mg, to be taken once a day. It could range between 10 – 20 mg in a single or divided dose.

Children (ages 0 to 17 years)

The use of this medicine is not studied in this age group, and thus its use should be avoided for them.

Other Lifestyle Changes to Boost Treatment

Making healthy life choices can boost the effect of beta-blockers.

Some lifestyle changes that are seen to help are:

Quitting Smoking

Harmful substances in tobacco cause contraction of your blood vessels, resulting in hypertension. By quitting to smoke, you can prevent further damage to blood vessels and the heart and may also reverse some damage that may have been caused.

Making Healthy Food Choices

It is one of the easiest and an excellent way to fight cardiovascular diseases. A healthy diet promotes and prevents conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol levels, which are risk factors for heart disorders.

A healthy diet includes a lot of vegetables, fruits, lean protein and is low in sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats (commonly present in baked and oily food items)

You can learn more about a healthy diet here.

Managing Cholesterol Levels

High cholesterol levels can clog your arteries, increasing the risk for hypertension, stroke, and heart diseases. So, avoid the intake of unhealthy fat present in food items such as baked goods, white bread and pasta, oily food, and processed meats.

Being Active

Physical exercise improves blood circulation and heart health. It is seen that 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week or 30 minutes of exercise a day for most days in a week.

Examples of some activities include jogging, swimming, walking, or cycling.

Stress Management

Learning to manage stress can help to control blood pressure. Warm baths, meditation, and yoga are relaxation techniques that can help to relieve stress.

Other lifestyle changes that may help are:

  • Manage health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension
  • Limit the intake of alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Take adequate rest

Common Side Effects to Lookout For

Before we look at the side effects, it is essential to know that people with asthma should avoid beta-blockers as they can trigger an asthma attack. Besides, beta-blockers may alter blood sugar levels and are thus not an ideal choice for people with diabetes.

Talking about the side effects, beta-blockers are usually safe in most cases. However, it may cause specific undesirable effects on certain individuals.

Common ones are:

  • Cold hands
  • Digestive problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness

Rarely, it may also cause:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Depression
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased libido

According to the Mayo Clinic, some beta-blockers such as metoprolol and atenolol may cause weight gain. 

Final Thoughts

Beta-blockers are mainly used to improve cardiovascular health, especially in people who are at higher risk of heart problems. There are various types, and each one affects the heart differently. Beta blockers may cause side effects and are not ideal to use in some people. So, always consult your doctor before starting the medicine. Also, follow your doctor’s advice while taking beta-blockers.

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