What are beta-blockers?

Beta-blockers are medications designed to stop norepinephrine and epinephrine from being able to adhere to the beta receptors located on nerves in the body. The norepinephrine and epinephrine allow different nerves to transmit information to other nerves. By interrupting the communication between the beta receptors located on certain nerves the beta-blocker can help to slow your heart rate, and lower your blood pressure.

Common Beta-Blockers

The most common beta-blockers being used today are:

  • Acebutolol
  • Atenolol
  • Betaxolol
  • Bisoprolol
  • Carvedilol
  • Metoprolol
  • Nadolol
  • Propanolol

The Study

A recent study was performed to demonstrate that treating patients with the doses of beta-blockers that were used in the clinical trials would improve their chances of surviving after a heart attack. The research team led by Jeffrey Goldberg from the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine expected to show that patients who received doses of beta-blockers that were less than what was prescribed during the clinical trials would be more apt to die from a heart attack than patients receiving the higher doses of the medications. The results surprised the researchers.

The Results

The administering of the beta-blockers did increase the chances of surviving the heart attack, but the dose of the beta-blockers needs to be determined on a patient by patient basis. Many people who received lesser doses of the beta-blockers survived as well as the people who had received the higher doses of the medication.

Out of 6,700 heart attack patients, fifteen percent of the ones who received a full dose of the beta blockers survived for two years after their cardiac event, while thirteen percent of the patients given half the dose used in the clinical trials survived for two years or more after their cardiac event. A little more than nine percent of the people who received one quarter of the amount given in the clinical trials survived for two years or more, and more than eleven percent of the patients who received only one eighth of the clinical trial dose survived for two years or more.

What this means

Cardiologist will be able to evaluate their patients to determine what dose of beta-blocking medicine will be most effective for them. A frail elderly patient will not be given the same amount of medication that an active man in his forties would receive. Each patient would only take the amount of medicine needed to improve their lives expectancy.

Lower doses of the medications could lessen the adverse side effects that people experience when they take these medications. The most common side effects of beta-blockers are:

  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cold hands
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach

Further Studies Needed

Further studies will need to be done so that the doctors will have the tools needed to determine the exact dose of the beta-blockers that each patient will require.