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Common Medications for Treating Heart Disease - Part 2

March 16, 2012

In our previous article we mentioned that ACE inhibitors and ARBs are common medications used to treat heart disease. Now, we will take a look at beta blockers and calcium channel blockers. These medications are all effective in their own ways, and they have their own pros and cons, as well as side effects.

Beta Blockers

heart disease medicationsBeta blockers are used for treating heart failure and high blood pressure. They function to block signals that increase heart rate and strengthen contractions of heart muscles. Treatment with these medications may appear to be counterintuitive, but it can be beneficial to heart health in the long run. The signals that are blocked by beta blockers are called beta-adrenergic receptors, and they belong to the part of the nervous system that receives messages to make the heart beat faster and pump harder. Blocking these signals will cause the heart to work at a slower pace and contract with less force, thus preventing fatigue and damage.

Beta blockers are affordable because they are available in generic form. According to medical experts, these medications do not cause side effects in most people, but they can aggravate heart failure in certain people. They can also cause airways to become narrower, making them unsafe for people who have asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema. Other side effects of beta blockers include dizziness, fatigue, cold hands and feet, erectile dysfunction, and nightmares.

Calcium Channel Blockers

Calcium channel blockers are not as commonly prescribed as beta blockers, but they may be more effective in treating hypertension in certain patients. By reducing the amount of calcium that moves through cells in the arteries and heart muscle, calcium channel blockers can promote normal functioning of the heart muscle, dilation of arteries, and lowering of blood pressure. They are prescribed for the treatment of high blood pressure, angina, and arrhythmia.

Calcium channel blockers only need to be taken once a day, and they have a lower tendency to cause fatigue than other kinds of heart medications. Nonetheless, they may not be suitable for people with congestive heart failure and pulmonary arterial hypertension. Possible side effects of calcium channel blockers include dizziness, shortness of breath, slow or irregular heartbeat, drowsiness, nausea, weakness, swelling in feet and ankles, and constipation.