Beta-blockers are one of the high blood pressure medications which block the effects of adrenaline and other hormones that stimulate the heart and cause blood pressure to rise. They have been available since the 1960s and are being prescribed for a variety of medical conditions.
Beta-blockers, which relax the blood vessels by blocking certain nerve impulses, are very versatile drugs. These agents have some 20 different approved uses or indications. Besides lowering blood pressure, they prevent anxiety and panic attacks, a boon for entertainers and public speakers; they are a mainstay in the treatment of angina, irregular heartbeats and heart attacks, according to Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld of the New York Hospital - Memorial Sloan - Kettering Cancer Center in The Best Treatment.
They control tremors; they make withdrawal from alcohol more tolerable; they're effective in preventing migraine headaches; two of them, timolol and betaxotol, are widely used to reduce elevated pressure in the eye due to glaucoma; they are used in thyroid disorders; one is even a vaginal contraceptive, Rosenfeld added.
When administered for hypertension, beta-blockers may be given alone or in combination with a thiazide diuretic. Unfortunately, their use here is limited because of side effects like fatigue, lethargy and impotence.
Beta-blockers appear to be more effective in young, white patients whose elevated blood pressure is caused by medium or high renin levels. This is a hormone made by the kidney which affects blood pressure.
But if that's not your problem, you might as well forget these drugs for they won't do you any good. Neither should they be taken if you have heart failure, asthma or heart block.
Another problem with beta-blockers is that they can decrease the blood level of good cholesterol and promote atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty deposits in the artery walls. This increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
These drugs should be avoided if you have chronic lung disease like emphysema, bronchitis, or asthma because they can induce bronchial spasm; or they can worsen matters if your heart rate is slow to begin with. They often cause impotence, fatigue, bad dreams and constipation, Rosenfeld said. (Next: Calcium-channel blockers for hypertension.)
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Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine [http://www.HealthLinesNews.com]