Beta blockers are medications used to cure cardiovascular diseases amongst other illnesses. Know the different types of beta blockers in this article.
Beta blockers is a family of medications which essentially have the same working mechanism. They inhibit the norepinephrine and epinephrine from binding to the beta receptors of the nerves. Beta receptors are present in various areas of the body. For instance, β1 receptors are located in the heart, eyes and kidneys, β2 receptors are located in lungs, gastrointestinal tract, liver, uterus, blood vessels and skeletal muscle whereas β3 receptors are present in fat cells. There are various types of beta blocker medications, which target beta receptors in different areas. Beta blockers are classified according to the beta receptor cells that they target.
What are Beta Blockers
Epinephrine and norepinephrine are the two forms of adrenaline, which control various emotions in our body. A rush of adrenaline often sets our heart pumping blood faster and induces a feeling of anxiety and restlessness. This is done by activating the beta receptor cells present on the nerves in different parts of body. As beta blockers block the epinephrine and norepinephrine from reaching the beta receptor cells, the undesirable effects of adrenaline can be alleviated.
They are used for curing a range of cardiovascular diseases. They are also used in the field of psychiatry. They reduce the physical symptoms of any emotional disturbance. For example a person may feel shaky and nervous before giving a public speech. In such case, beta blockers reduce tremors or palpitations so that person can cope with his anxiety in a better way.
Given below are a few medical conditions treated with the help of beta blockers.
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Angina (chest pain)
- Prevention of migraines
Types of Beta Blockers
As mentioned above, there are various types of beta blockers such as for anxiety, for cardiovascular diseases etc. The distinction is made depending upon the types of beta receptor cells that the medicine affects. Some beta blockers are cardioselective, meaning they affect the beta receptors in the heart than those present on the nerves of other body parts.
Some others have an intrinsic sympathomimetic activity, which allows them to stimulate the beta receptor cells slightly as well as block them. Some beta blockers are also alpha blockers, meaning they block alpha receptor cells as well. Most of the beta blockers can be classified into more than one category. However, for simplicity of understanding, we can classify them as-
Selective Beta Blockers
They only target one of the two beta receptor cells. They only affect the function of the organ where the concerned beta receptor cells are located. For instance, beta blockers like metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL) block β1 receptors which are present in the heart. Hence, they are likely to affect heart function more than any other body part.
Non Selective Beta Blockers
They target both types of beta receptor cells. Thus, having an extensive effect on all the body parts which host the beta receptor cells. For instance, propranolol (Inderal) is a non selective beta blocker which affects heart rate, air passages as well as other vital organs.
Different beta blockers help you to overcome various ailments. Although, they are generally safe, there are a few known side effects. Hence, it is always recommended that you tell your complete medical history to your physician before he prescribes you any beta blockers.