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A Cardiologist’s Overview of Beta-Blockers

Most healthcare providers prioritize addressing symptoms over the underlying causes of disease. Beta-blockers, a medication frequently used for hypertension and irregular heart rhythms, have gained widespread acceptance in our current medical paradigm. Yet, upon peeling back the surface layers, the narrative around these drugs unveils itself as more intricate than what first meets the eye.

Often hailed as reliable remedies for various heart conditions, beta-blockers – scientifically known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents – are used by millions. But a careful look is necessary. While they can relieve symptoms, these drugs interact with our bodies in complex ways, potentially leading to complications and side effects. This is a more nuanced story concealed within their common usage.

It’s increasingly clear that beta-blockers are overprescribed, appearing on a disproportionately large number of prescription pads across the nation. This “pill for every ill” approach glosses over the complexity of our biological systems and sidesteps in addressing the origins of our health problems.

In challenging our prevailing ‘medication-first’ mindset, this exploration delves into the varied types, uses, effectiveness, and potential side effects of beta-blockers. Advocating a broader, patient-centric strategy that values the body’s innate healing capabilities, this article provides an expanded understanding of beta-blockers for those who prefer addressing health’s root causes over its symptoms, aligning with a more natural health paradigm.

What is a Beta-Blocker?

When we think of beta-blockers, we automatically think of the heart. However, understanding blockers begins with a look inside our body’s complex messaging system, the nervous system. Here, a key hormone called adrenaline, or epinephrine, plays a crucial role.

Think of adrenaline as a fast-acting courier, rushing messages to different body parts to prepare for stress situations, like ‘fight or flight’. These messages are received by receptors — much like mailboxes — found throughout the body. Among these, beta receptors, particularly abundant in the heart, are of particular interest when it comes to beta-blockers.

Imagine beta-blockers as clever impersonators, acting like adrenaline. They attach to these beta receptors, effectively blocking them. This stops real adrenaline from delivering its messages, which often include prompts like ‘speed up the heart’ or ‘increase blood pressure.’ By blocking these signals, beta-blockers cause the heart to beat slower and with less force, which lowers blood pressure.

Beta-blockers are primarily prescribed for the treatment of:

  • Angina (chest pressure/discomfort)
  • Heart failure
  • Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
  • Heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Off-label use for anxiety, migraines, and tremors

However, not all beta-blockers are identical. As a general rule, they are categorized into two main classes. The first class, non-selective beta-blockers, indiscriminately block both types of beta receptors, known as β1 and β2 receptors. The second class, called selective or “cardioselective” beta-blockers, primarily targets one specific type of receptor — the beta-1 receptors, which have a pronounced presence in the heart.

Among the prevalent members of the beta blocker family, you’ll encounter medications like:

  • Atenolol, marketed under brand names such as Tenormin
  • Carvedilol, which often goes by its generic name
  • Metoprolol, which you might see labeled as Lopressor
  • Nebivolol, often sold as Bystolic
  • Propranolol, frequently recognized by its brand name, Inderal

Beta-blockers may sound like an excellent solution for conditions like high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. Unfortunately, they attempt to treat or cover up the symptoms, and not the underlying cause.

Do Beta-Blockers Work?

In the medical world, the question, “Are beta-blockers effective?” often evokes a ‘Yes, most certainly,’ when really it should elicit a hesitant ‘Maybe.’ Evidence suggests they can effectively temper a racing heart or surging blood pressure. However, this pharmaceutical intervention can be like slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound. It stops the bleeding without addressing the root cause.

Plunging into the research, a revealing study scrutinizes beta-blockers impact on older adults, underscoring potential concerns. The investigation meticulously evaluates the risks and benefits of beta-blockers, particularly for mature populations. This analysis draws from diverse sources, including systematic reviews, randomized trials, and observational studies, with a total of fifteen studies—seven focusing exclusively on older adults.

Notably, when researchers considered a composite endpoint—a cluster of outcomes including death, stroke, or heart attack—beta-blockers appeared to skew the odds towards a heightened risk of these events compared to other blood pressure-lowering drugs. Moreover, beta-blockers demonstrated no clear mortality benefit compared to other antihypertensive agents or placebos.

Conflicting and inconclusive findings clouded the picture of beta-blockers impact on stroke risk. The researchers concluded with caution, stating that the current evidence supporting beta-blockers’ benefits for high blood pressure is rather flimsy, advising against their use as the primary choice for managing hypertension in the elderly.

Echoing this sentiment, a notable 2012 study discovered no evidence of beta-blockers reducing heart disease-related mortality, heart attacks, or strokes—effectively finding no extension of life. More recent research corroborates this, showing that individuals on beta-blockers had a similar life expectancy to those not on the medication.

Further disrupting conventional wisdom, a comprehensive Swedish study probed the long-term effectiveness of beta-blockers in heart attack survivors. Examining medical records of over 43,000 heart attack patients, the research revealed no cardiovascular health advantage for those who continued beta-blocker usage beyond the first year.

More research raises eyebrows about the benefits of beta-blockers for heart failure patients with better heart pumping function, known as ejection fraction. The study scrutinized over 400,000 older adults in the U.S., discovering that while beta blockers can benefit patients with weaker heart pumping function, the same might not hold for those with stronger hearts.

Astonishingly, patients with an ejection fraction over 60% experienced higher hospitalization rates when on beta-blockers. These findings call for a nuanced approach to heart failure treatment, emphasizing the necessity to consider individual patient metrics, such as ejection fraction, before prescribing beta-blockers.

The combination of this research accentuates the concept that while beta-blockers may serve as a temporary salve, they potentially ignore the undercurrents of deeper, unaddressed health issues. It’s akin to silencing the alarm instead of extinguishing the fire.

Downsides to Beta-Blockers

The ‘fight or flight’ reaction is a crucial physiological process in our bodies, guided by adrenaline, that lets us adjust to different scenarios. Yet, when beta-blockers artificially inhibit this response, it can give rise to a range of side effects, including:

  • Extreme fatigue: Energy levels can plummet, making everyday tasks feel overwhelming.
  • Low libido: Sexual desire can dwindle, along with erectile dysfunction, impacting intimate relationships.
  • Nausea: This unpleasant sensation can disrupt daily life and dietary habits.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: Experiences of constipation or diarrhea can emerge, impacting digestion and comfort.
  • Sleep disturbances: Slumber can become elusive or interrupted, undermining rest and rejuvenation.
  • Dizziness: A sense of instability or lightheadedness can compromise balance and mobility.
  • Depression: Mood can dip, casting a gray hue over general well-being.
  • Erectile dysfunction: Men may experience difficulties maintaining an erection, leading to stress and reduced sexual satisfaction.
  • Cold extremities: Beta-blockers can decrease blood flow to the hands and feet, leading to a persistent chill in these areas despite external temperatures.
  • Weight gain: Unexpected increase in weight can occur, which may influence self-image and overall health.

More severe side effects warrant closer attention. Studies show that individuals with asthma or underlying lung conditions should use caution if considering beta blockers, as they can increase airway problems. Beta-blockers can lead to other life-threatening conditions, including the following:

  • Bradycardia: Beta-blockers may cause an abnormally low heart rate, also known as bradycardia, potentially disrupting the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively.
  • Hypotension: Beta-blockers can induce unusually low blood pressure, potentially leading to fainting and organ damage due to inadequate blood flow.
  • Worsening heart conditions: In some instances, these medications can exacerbate the very conditions they are prescribed to manage, leading to heart block and worsening heart failure.

Natural Alternatives to Beta-Blockers

Nature, in its inherent wisdom, presents us with a plethora of natural beta-blocker options to nurture our cardiovascular health, devoid of detrimental side effects. The guiding philosophy of the Natural Heart Doctor, aptly termed “Eat Well, Live Well, Think Well,” underscores this approach.

The key to fostering a natural, healthy heart rhythm lies in identifying and mitigating the root causes of inflammation that catalyze the problem. Potential culprits might encompass:

  • Subpar nutrition
  • Imbalance in hydration or electrolytes
  • A passive lifestyle
  • Deficiency in sunlight exposure
  • Insufficient sleep
  • Excessive exposure to electrosmog
  • Overwhelming stress
  • Accumulated body toxins
  • Spinal misalignments
  • Poor oral health
  • Adverse effects of medication

A comprehensive understanding of these triggers paves the way for actionable steps towards a healthier heart, aligned with the three pillars of the Natural Heart Doctor’s philosophy:

Eat Well

This pillar advocates a return to our ancestral dietary habits.

  • Emphasize organic, nutrient-packed foods such as grass-fed meat, free-range poultry and eggs, and wild-caught seafood.
  • Broaden your dietary horizons to include organ meats.
  • Incorporate whole foods, like nuts and seeds, rich in nutrients.
  • Weed out inflammatory culprits such as processed foods, refined sugars, grains, gluten, and genetically modified organisms.
  • Steer clear of foods laced with pesticides and chemicals.
  • Consider evidence-based supplements such as magnesium, potassium, berberine, or curcumin. Better yet, get everything you need in the Hypertension Complete Support Protocol.

Live Well

The art of living well requires balance and mindfulness.

  • Ensure 7-9 hours of quality sleep nightly.
  • Engage in regular physical activity, preferably outdoors, to reap the benefits of vitamin D from sunlight.
  • Maintain a clean environment, free from environmental toxins and mold mycotoxins.
  • Minimize exposure to electrosmog by curbing electronic use and reducing contact with WiFi, Bluetooth, and other forms of radiation.
  • Obtain regular chiropractic care.
  • Team up with a holistic dentist to address dental health.

Think Well

Fostering mental wellness is instrumental in maintaining a healthy heart rhythm.

  • Carve out a tranquil mental haven and equip yourself to handle stress effectively.
  • Nurture positive relationships while setting firm boundaries against toxic ones.
  • Partake in activities that fuel your joy and passion.
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude, seeking positivity in your day-to-day life.

Next Steps

If you’re on beta-blockers, you’re far from alone – millions of others are on this journey with you. However, the essence of progress lies in the adage: “When you know better, you do better.” Today could be the stepping stone to a new dawn in your health journey.

Knowledge is your newfound power, and it’s time to harness it. It’s time to contemplate a shift towards a healthcare team that envisions a drug-free, rejuvenated version of you. It’s a shared goal — to reclaim the vitality you deserve and feel better than ever.

You might wonder, “How do I start this journey?” Here’s where the Natural Heart Doctor steps in. We offer a complimentary 20-minute health consultation with an experienced NHD health coach to facilitate this transition. It’s an open conversation — a safe space to voice your concerns, discuss your health objectives, and explore the paths that lead to a healthier heart, and indeed, a healthier you.

Embracing a natural approach to heart health doesn’t mean upending your life overnight. It’s about those little changes that you weave into the fabric of your day-to-day life. And every step you take counts. A team of experts awaits, ready to guide you to your 100 year heart. So why wait?

In order to live well, one must eat well.

Get the Natural Heart Doctor approved Diet and discover how to eat for your 100 Year Heart.

Work With Us

Discover how we can help you achieve your 100 Year Heart.

About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Acupuncture

Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.