Selective Beta Blockers Boost Conventional Medicine

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 03/27/2014

I’m often asked if there’s a natural alternative to selective beta blockers, especially in cases where a patient has atrial fibrillation. Believe it or not, this is the one of the few times I feel conventional medicine trumps natural alternatives.

Selective Beta Blockers Boost Conventional Medicine

Selective beta blockers are cardiology workhorses, and in my opinion, the safest and most effective class of drugs we have. Low-dose selective beta blockers are effective in controlling atrial fibrillation, lowering blood pressure levels, and helping to prevent damage to the heart when oxygen flow is reduced.

Research also shows that taking selective beta blockers following a heart attack can be a lifesaver—quite literally. This is because they protect against arrhythmias that can develop as a result of scar tissue in the heart muscle, reducing risk of subsequent cardiac events and even sudden cardiac death.

Most people tolerate selective beta blockers very well, but as with most drugs, they do have the potential to create side effects. The most common problem I’ve seen is overwhelming fatigue, which can often be minimized by reducing the dose.

Selective beta blockers also deplete CoQ10 and melatonin, so if you take a beta blocker, you must also supplement with CoQ10 (100 mg once or twice a day). This is very important to remember because CoQ10 protects against heart attacks, heart failure, and fatigue, and also helps keep the immune system strong.

There are two important caveats I want to note. First, I normally wouldn’t prescribe selective beta blockers for people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)—especially if they have asthma—since beta blockers can aggravate these conditions. I’m also hesitant to give beta blockers to folks with diabetes, especially those with poorly controlled blood sugar. This is because beta blockers can mask a hypoglycemic episode by blocking the normal adrenaline response to low blood sugar.

However, I did treat my own mother, who was a brittle diabetic, with low-doses of the propranolol beta blockers to help control her symptomatic angina and arrhythmias. So it can be used, if necessary (but with caution) for a diabetic who develops arrhythmia after a heart attack, or who has angina. In cases like this, the medication saves and prolongs lives.

Now it’s your turn: Have you taken a selective beta blocker?

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