Another very loud and clear warning has just been sounded about the class of drugs known as beta blockers.
These commonly prescribed meds are used to treat high blood pressure and routinely handed out to patients with heart disease.
Just last week, I told you about a new study that found no advantage whatsoever in prescribing beta blockers to most heart attack patients. It was all risk and no gain.
Now, researchers from several highly respected health institutions, including UCLA, have found that they pose a special danger to those with diabetes.
That not only includes life-threatening low blood sugar, but a big risk for “cardiovascular events” such as heart attacks, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest — a killer that takes down over 325,000 in the U.S. every year.
Beta blockers look like they’re well on their way to going into the annals of medicine as one of the riskiest, yet often prescribed drugs out there.
For one thing, they can actually cause diabetes.
Evidence from the long-term Nurses’ Health Studies found that those taking these drugs could up their risk of developing the disease by almost a third.
Second, beta blockers can put anyone with diabetes (types 1 or 2) in jeopardy of severe hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar (which is said to be a glucose reading of below 70 mg/dl).
And to make matters even worse, since these drugs slow down your heart rate, you might not even recognize one of the telltale warnings that your blood sugar is falling to dangerous levels — a racing pulse.
Certainly, having diabetes is hard enough without adding another layer of worry to it. Anytime you’re taking insulin or pills to lower your blood sugar, hypoglycemia is a risk. And it looks like taking a beta blocker can make it an extreme risk.
But as bad as that sounds, some new research (that also confirmed the hypoglycemic risk) has found that these drugs — ones that are given out like candy to treat heart disease — can actually make it worse.
Researchers from UCLA, several universities in Japan, and the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo analyzed some of the best data out there where type 2 diabetes is concerned, which came out of the authoritative ACCORD Trial.
ACCORD was a 10-year study conducted at 77 medical centers in the U.S. and Canada. And one of its most important accomplishments was busting the long-standing myth that diabetics should be using a bevy of drugs to get their top (systolic) blood pressure number down below 120. It found that kind of extreme blood-pressure control to be not only a wrong approach, but a downright dangerous one.
Now, what this current study uncovered, using that ACCORD data, is that beta blockers not only significantly contributed to diabetics suffering from all those heart “events” I mentioned, but that they posed a risk to both those with and without heart disease when the drugs were started.
It sounds like that old chestnut — heads I win, tails you lose.
As I recently told you, dispensing these kinds of meds is pretty much the knee-jerk approach in caring for anyone — diabetic or otherwise — who has had a heart attack.
And that’s still the case, despite the fact we also know that beta blockers can double the risk of suffering from major depression, as well as cause side effects such as dizziness, lightheadedness and a very slow heart rate — all of which can up your risk of taking a bad fall.
It all adds up to the fact that these drugs, which have been dispensed for around half-a-century, are just too dangerous on too many fronts to be handed out so haphazardly.
And if you’re currently taking one (they go under many generic names such metoprolol, acebutolol, and propranolol) it’s very important that you schedule a visit with your doctor and find out if you can get off of it — especially if you’re diabetic.
But be careful not to stop suddenly, as that can trigger a steep rise in your blood pressure as well as heart palpitations.
“Beta-blockers are associated with severe hypoglycemia, higher CV even risk in diabetes” Emily Willingham, PhD, June 5, 2017, Univadis, univadis.com