The Truth About Asthma And Beta Blockers

Read through the search results on asthma and beta-blockers, and the news seems to be all doom and gloom.

If you don’t dig deeper, you’d forgiven for thinking that people with asthma should not take this cardiac medication.

Yet with further research, the picture becomes a little less clear cut.

You see, fortunately for those with conditions that classified as ‘Reactive Airway Diseases’, advances in medical technology and drug research have benefited heart health too.

Not only that, but new studies have questioned whether any cardiac patients – people are living with asthma or not – really benefit from beta blockers anyway.

This article will look at these points, as well as what alternatives are available.
Beta blockers (also called Beta-adrenergic blocking agents) used for :
* high blood pressure
* migraine prevention
* angina (pain originating from the heart muscle)
* irregular and fast heartbeats (treatment and prevention)
* the symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland
* congestive heart failure
* preventing performance anxiety in musicians and others
* several other conditions.
They work by blocking the effect of the hormone adrenaline, as well as chemicals related to it that are also associated with ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. These drugs come in two classes. Old style medications are called non-selective beta blockers. Newer ones are known as cardioselective beta blockers. The difference between them relates to the fact that the older class of drugs block two of the three types of beta receptors in the body. The newer drugs are more precise. They can block either beta receptor 1 or 2 – hence the name.
It is good news for people living with asthma, as evidence exists that cardioselective beta blockers are safe for asthmatics and those with specific other serious respiratory problems. The problem with the older style of the drug was that it had the potential to cause severe asthma attacks. The risks were just not worth it, so people rarely put on them.
The new drugs don’t pose such a threat, however, at least for those with mild to moderate asthma. This change of medical opinion came about after an analysis of many published studies after they had qualified as eligible to be considered. It is important to note, however, that long term use is still not suggested for asthma patients. And in the case of severe asthma, beta blockers are even contraindicated.
One new report in Science Daily threatens to throw the whole issue out the window. They cite a Cochrane Review of 13 randomized trials that altogether had more than 91, 000 people in them. The Review analyzed whether the studies involved found beta blockers effective in controlling the progression of heart disease, or preventing death from it. And they found that it was not significantly better than a placebo at either.
The beta blocker used was called atenolol.
Atenolol is a cardioselective beta blocker that has an affinity for beta receptor 1.
While the Science Daily article points out that more work needs had done before this information is extrapolated across the board to all beta blockers.
They also note that the chief cardiac alternatives fared better. These include calcium channel blockers, thiazides, and renin-angiotensin system inhibitors.
It is all good news for people with asthma with cardiac problems. It means that there are classes of drugs available to them that are safer for their airways, and more likely to protect them from the issues associated with heart disease. As always, discuss your options with your doctor, and if you’re not happy with the results, get a second opinion.
1. Medscape
2. MayoClinic
3. American Academy Of Family Physicians
4. Cochrane Reviews
5. Wikipedia
6. Science Daily