Before you attribute forgetting where you parked your car to an early senior moment, read this:
After my heart attack, I thought I had brain damage. I went back to working as a choreographer, but couldn’t concentrate and be creative in the same way I had before. I found out I wasn’t alone.
“I can be having a conversation with somebody and all of a sudden my mind just goes blank. I’ll look at them and say what was I talking about?” shares Kay Marie Kortas, a 35-year-old kindergarten teacher and heart attack survivor. “I feel like I can’t hold a conversation anymore. It is very frustrating to me.”
Following a conversation in a noisy restaurant or when there are other distractions can be difficult. Emmy Award-winning actress Tracey Conway’s sister suggested Tracey have her hearing tested, “I say things to you and sometimes you just don’t respond,” she said.
“I got it checked, and it was okay,” Tracey said. “But, I never thought my distraction might be caused by my medication.”
Many people with high blood pressure and other cardiac conditions take a prescription medication known as a beta blocker. As a result, they may find themselves experiencing memory problems, disorientation, difficulty paying attention, and even what appears to be hearing loss as a result. The condition dubbed the “beta blocker stupids” can be frustrating, but knowing it is a result of the medication can be comforting.
Feeling fuzzy-headed, sleepy, and less attentive is common for patients taking beta blockers. So, if you have trouble remembering if you took your medication, lose track of a conversation, or have difficulty concentrating, give yourself a break—blame it on the drugs! Knowing these problems are caused by the drugs may help you feel less crazy. Once you recognize what is going on, you can have a sense of humor about it.
Tips for dealing with the beta blocker “stupids”
Get a pill case: Taking your medication consistently and on time is essential. Use a day-of-the-week pill case and don’t guess.
Get a notebook: Keep track of what you need to do and things you want to discuss. You may get distracted during a conversation, but your notes will bring you back on track.
Use your calendar: Keep a record of when particularly bothersome symptoms occur. Are they related to shorter sleep times, more sedentary days, alcohol use, or other lifestyle factors you may be able to adjust?
Don’t hide: You are not crazy, you are having side effects. Be honest with the people around you about your struggle to deal with these issues. While you may think your difficulties are obvious, you may be surprised to discover how well you are covering.
Talk to your doctor: Explain what you are experiencing and how it is effecting your qualify of life. Ask about options to reduce or eliminate the side effects.
Taking your medications consistently and as prescribed is essential to your treatment. Do not stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor. Work with your doctor to find a treatment plan which balances side effects and medication benefits.
Eliz Greene is the author of The Busy Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Heart. Drawing on her experience surviving a massive heart attack while seven-months pregnant with twins, struggling to lose the 80 pounds gained during her pregnancy, and her background as an adaptive movement specialist, Eliz developed simple strategies and tips to help other busy women be more active, eat better and manage your stress.
As the Director of the Embrace Your Heart Wellness Initiative, Eliz travels the country energizing and inspiring audiences in keynotes and workshops on women’s heart health. She writes one of the top 100 health and wellness blogs. Find more at www.EmbraceYourHeart.com.