Medications referred to as beta blockers are commonly prescribed to control blood pressure, heart failure, and some types of arrhythmias. While considered the most benign of the cardiac drugs, many people experience irritating and sometimes intolerable side effects.
Beta blockers block the flow of adrenaline and cause your heart to beat slower and with less force. The medication also relaxes the blood vessels and improves blood flow. Your doctor may prescribe a drug such as atenolol (Tenormin®), carvedilol (Coreg™), metoprolol (Toprol XL™, Lopressor®), or and sotolol (Betapace®) which are effective beta blockers.
Common side effects of beta blockers include:
- Dizziness and in some cases fainting
- Fuzzy-headedness and disorientation
- Raynaud’s Syndrome: cold hands or feet
- Depression (Read more in an article on depression)
- Loss of sex drive
Less common side effects include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep disturbances
- Loss of sex drive
- Drug induced lupus (in rare cases)
Tips for managing side effects:
- Split your dosage: Discuss with your doctor taking your medication twice per day, rather than all at once. A smaller dose each time may result in fewer or less dramatic side effects.
- Take it at night: Let your body experience the side effects while you sleep. Not surprisingly, many people find they sleep more soundly while taking beta blockers, a happy side effect!
- Exercise: Many people find moderate physical activity counteracts side effects, brightens mood, and increases alertness. Try exercising in the morning to burn off the effects of the medication.
- Discuss with your doctor: Call your doctor and make an appointment if you experience persistent lightheadedness or disorientation, fainting, or extreme fatigue. These symptoms may be signs you need to decrease your dosage or explore other options.
On the positive side, beta blockers can help reduce anxiety, they are often prescribed for those who fear public speaking, and may help prevent migraine headaches.
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.