Your doctor wants to prescribe beta blocker medication for you. This class of drugs can protect the heart and lower blood pressure, working wonders for many people with serious heart disease. But, as with any medication, there are many people who are given the prescription for these medications who should seriously consider tossing the Rx in the trash and telling their doctor, “No thanks.”
- Increased Diabetes Risk: Many studies have found a greater risk for developing diabetes in those patients taking beta blockers. How great a risk? How about 32% higher in women and 20% higher in men, according to a recent Diabetes Care analysis of over 70,000 people. Carvedilol (Coreg) may be an exception — not wreaking havoc on sugar and fat metabolism and not reducing insulin effectiveness as other class members do. Commonly used beta blockers include atenolol, metoprolol, propanolol and labetalol.
- Reduced Awareness of Low Blood Sugar in Diabetics: Beta blockers reduce the adrenalin response when a diabetic has a low blood sugar reaction. That adrenalin works to get the liver to pump out more sugar into the blood. Higher levels of the hormone cause symptoms such as sweating, nervousness, trembling, palpitations, lightheadedness, and hunger. Diabetics recognize these symptoms as a warning their sugar is too low. Beta blockers mask these alarm symptoms which could lead to a more severe low sugar reaction.
- Worse Wheezing: Some of these drugs may cause narrowing of breathing passages (by chemically doing the exact opposite of what inhalers do) in those people susceptible to wheezing. Asthmatics and people with emphysema – beware! Certain types like metoprolol or atenolol are less likely than other beta blockers to cause wheezing problems.
- The Blahs Made More Blah-y: Many people who take beta blockers report side effects such as fatigue, depression and loss of sex drive. These are three good reasons to carefully weigh pros and cons of taking this type of medication.
- Anaphylaxis Danger: Those people who are susceptible to severe allergic reactions like peanut or bee sting allergy may want to steer clear of these drugs. Beta blockers may render ineffective the life saving treatment for a severe allergic reaction by blocking the effects of an epinephrine injection.
- Wound Healing Woes: This class of drug may interfere with healing of ulcers and other chronic wounds by indirectly reducing blood flow in tiny arteries. Excellent blood flow is one of several key factors in promoting wound healing.
- Sarafidis, PA and Bakris, GL. Antihypertensive Therapy and the Risk of New-Onset Diabetes. Diabetes Care. May 2006 vol. 29 no. 5, 1167-1169.
- Antihypertensive Therapy and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. New England Journal of Medicine. March 30, 2000. No. 13, Volume 342:969-970.
- Anaphylaxis. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/756150-overview