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Do You Need That Beta Blocker?

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Beta blockers are one of the world’s most prescribed cardiac drugs. They blunt the effect of adrenaline, lowering the heart rate and easing the heart’s workload, Dr. Chauncey Crandall explains. They were once thought to prevent heart attacks and stroke. But is that the case?
In a major new study, NYU School of Medicine researchers analyzed data from more than 44,000 patients. They compared people with coronary artery disease, heart attack survivors, and those with heart disease risk factors with control groups comprised of healthy people not taking medication. They found no significant difference between the groups.

When I first began practicing medicine 25 years ago, I found beta blockers to be very useful. But in recent years, I have gradually decreased my use of them. I find newer drugs, including ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors) and ARBS (angiotensin II receptor blockers), more effective. Also, many patients dislike beta blockers because of their side effects, which include fatigue, lethargy, depression, and weight gain. I also avoid them because most of those now available are generic, and I’m concerned these drugs may be counterfeit or manufactured poorly abroad.
I do still prescribe beta blockers for certain cardiac arrhythmias, or heartbeat irregularities. If you take these drugs because you previously had a heart attack or stroke, or you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor if there might be a better alternative.

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