Q. I was on atenolol for high blood pressure and kept complaining to my doctor about fatigue, tiredness, light-headedness and swelling feet and ankles. I couldn’t breathe or walk up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch my breath every two steps.

As a military dependent I see different physicians. My current doctor switched me to propranolol. I am now noticing that my feet and ankles are beginning to swell with this medication also and I have developed asthma. There are days when I can't do anything but sleep.

Are there better drugs or natural approaches to control my blood pressure? I am convinced that these medications have caused me more harm than good!

A. Atenolol and propranolol are both beta blockers. Such drugs are rarely considered appropriate as the first-line treatment for hypertension. They can trigger fatigue and asthma and are not appropriate for people with breathing difficulties. You should not have to suffer symptoms from your blood pressure medicine.

We are sending you our new Guide to Blood Pressure with many natural approaches, including helpful foods, special juices and breathing exercises, as well as the pros and cons of many medications. We are concerned about your swollen feet and ankles and urge you to see a cardiologist who could evaluate this symptom.

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  1. adrienne j.
    Reply

    Hi there I’ve been on amlodipine and mylan indapamide for 2 years, I’ve been having pins and needles in my hands and heels, I can’t sleep because of a lot of pain, my short term memory is also very bad. My doctor say it’s not the tablets.

  2. ZOE
    Reply

    Hi, I have been on Noten for blood pressure since last year 2012 because ramipril made me develop a constant cough.
    Since taking Noten I began to feel as if I could not breathe when lying down at night. It was quite frightening and I thought it was to do with the fact that I have Sleep Apnea and have to wear a mask to assist my breathing when I sleep.
    The feeling of being unable to breathe in enough oxygen continued, and progressively worsened. I had to sit upright several times every night for an hour or so, as I felt like I was suffocating. I was becoming progressively so tired that I began to fall asleep about 5 times a day and felt weak all the time. I kept getting fleeting feelings of extreme weakness, slowing down heartbeat, and felt like I was going to pass out.
    Then one day my heart stopped beating and everything began to go black like a darkness closing in on me and I had to lean on my shopping trolley and try to not panic as I made my way slowly to the service desk to tell the shop staff I felt like I was going to pass out. My heart only stopped momentarily and it then began to beat very slowly, (it did not palpitate to catch up after it had stopped altogether) and I felt so weak and ill I had to really keep concentrating on breathing normally and not panicking.
    I was checked by the Chemist who came from the next shop with a blood pressure machine and she found my heart was beating slower and slower. It had dropped to 61 beats a minute. Taken to hospital in an ambulance, the paramedics monitored my blood pressure and heartbeat and found it was slowing down even more. 60 beats per minute down to 54 by the time we got to the hospital which was only about 7 minutes away.
    Once in Emergency I was put on an ECG machine and a blood pressure monitor that kept checking my heart rate and blood pressure etc. Blood tests were done to check my thyroid, if I had diabetes, my kidney function, liver function, and pancreas function. Urine tests were done as well. Everything checked out as healthy.
    The doctors were confused as to what caused my collapse and why my heart rate had now slowed to 50 beats per minute.
    One doctor they were talking with, noticed that I was taking Noten and said “It’s a Beta blocker” and decided that NOTEN was what had caused the problem.
    They told me to never take it again and they gave me a bag of saline by IV and after about 2 hours I felt better.
    I have been off any Blood pressure medication for 2 weeks while waiting for a 24 hour ECG reading. Now the Doctor has put me on 4mg of Candesarten which I have to take in the evening once a day. NOBODY warned me about any side effects of Noten and I had been totally UNAWARE of the possibility of it causing me breathing problems or slowing down my heart beat. The Hospital told me I had Bradycardia and that what happened to me was a Vasovagal Event.
    I have had Rheumatic Fever as a child and have a slightly scarred mitral valve. However I was always very fit and always extremely active until a few years ago when injured knees prevented me from regular walking etc. I do not doubt that the NOTEN was causing the difficulty in breathing every time I lay down, and that my extreme tiredness, weakness and fleeting bouts of dizziness were caused by Noten. This went away after I stopped taking Noten. I also noticed that on NOTEN I was having short term memory problems where I would get up to go to the fridge or another room and then forget what I was going for. I was calling my dogs by the wrong names, even though I knew which name I meant to say.
    I was trying to fit the wrong keys into the house door locks.
    These are things I normally never do.
    People’s Pharmacy response: American readers may be puzzled by the drug name, but would recognize its generic name atenolol. Beta blockers like atenolol can interfere with breathing, and also slow heart rate.
    You certainly had a frightening experience. We hope that candesartan will be easier to take!

  3. E.tyler
    Reply

    I have been on different bp medicines for 15 years. Now am taking 32 mg of anacand. I just can’t take bp medicines. I have back pain, dizziness, sore throat,shortness of breath, gained weight and don’t eat that much. My doctor wants to get cholesterol down, but when you can’t walk with shortness of breath, what do you do? I do have a pacemaker, but I am so tired and fatigued I need help with an alternative medicine that is natural. Can anyone help?

  4. Bernice P.
    Reply

    Since taking Noten 3 years ago after slight stroke have experienced almost total aversion to food and eating. Just mention of food and whole body reacts. After eating small portion can no longer chew or swallow any more. Drinking Okay. Loss of weight – 2 stone in three years and whole body now stringy and thin. Dropped 2 sizes in clothes. Is it the Noten???
    Doctor just shrugs when mentioned. Also he has to use old style blood pressure machine and not new electronic ones as they give false reading. Would this happen to other people and could people be misdiagnosed with high blood pressure to to incorrect machine?

  5. bill
    Reply

    I have been reducing my amount of Atenolol starting at 25mg, cutting the pill in half and then finally quarters. Occasionally I will go back to 12.5 mg if my blood pressure shows a rise. Why not try halving yours to 25 mg and see what happens. I’m no MD so you may want to check this out with more knowledgeable people. My belief is it’s my body and I will take care of it bet I can, sometimes not completely following doctors orders.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: We don’t recommend changing the dose of blood pressure medication until you talk it over with your doctor.

  6. S
    Reply

    Hi Damien
    I live in Australia also and am on Noten. After a few months on it I am getting breathless lying in bed at night (or lying down anywhere at any time), whether on my back or on my side. When you state that your issues get/got worse, especially at night, do you mean the breathless as well?
    Thank you.

  7. Ann
    Reply

    My mother-in-law and a cousin have naturally high heart rates. Tenormin, brand name only, works for them. But for some reason, the generic of Tenormin does not—like you, it causes chest pain, and does not relieve the high heart rate in them.
    But they have no problems with generic forms of other prescriptions that they take.
    The pharmacist has said that it may have to do with not only the drug itself, but the additives that make up the brand name pill, versus the generic pill, the combination of all of these.

  8. mc mehta
    Reply

    Dear sir, I am taking one pill of Metolar AM50 daily for control of BP. for last three years. No side effects. For the last 50 days I am taking vertin16, etilaam. 25mg. & Gingkocer daily my ankles & feet get swollen. My Neurologist says this is on account of amplodine (metolar AM) What is the remedy of swelling. Will it stop when my BPV treatment gets completed after another 10days.
    regards, mc mehta
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: Amlodipine can cause swollen legs. Metoprolol (Metolar) usually doesn’t. Getting the right blood pressure medicine can be a matter of trial and error.

  9. Damien G
    Reply

    I had a rapid onset of AF about 1 month ago , I work in the Mines in Australia and have always been healthy have a strong heart and always perfect BP 120/80. The AF they think was caused by imbalance of my electrolytes due to dehydration. I am now on 25 mg of Noten (Atenolol) till I have another review in 1 month. I have had a few symptoms most notably pronounced heart beat and pulse, high anxiety, and panic attacks all of which I have NEVER experienced before which is very confronting.
    I went to the GP and my Pulse was down to 42 BPM. He cut me back to 12.5 mg which helped the pulse (back to 62 BPM) but am still having anxiety attacks and shortness of breath. I am not one to dwell on things but the more I concentrate on the symptoms the more pronounced they become especially when I am lying in bed. I’m sure this medication has great benefits for some but obviously not for others. I cannot wait for a clean bill of health and hopefully return to my usual self. I am only 38.

  10. Dan T
    Reply

    My boyfriend has been on atenolol for three month’s now and has many of the symptoms I’m reading about here, one other symptom he has is he gets hot flashes shortly after taking the med, all the problem’s he is having is from the medication that suppose to be making him better, these doctors know exactly what’s going on, they are making money prescribing these drugs, and in return the pharmaceuticals are making millions. You would think with all there so called research they could develop a drug for blood pressure that does not make people so sick, they know damn well what they are doing to everyone, doctors no longer look out for the best interest of there patients, it’s all about money! Think about it the sicker you are the more money they make.

  11. KFA
    Reply

    I was prescribed an oral Tritace Titration Oral Pack 38 for BP and experienced a continual dry cough. I have since been on Atacand 8 mg. for three days and still have this cough. It seems to be increasing. Don’t know what to do. I have only been on all medication since 15th Agusut, 2012

  12. JP
    Reply

    Hi, I am a 44 year old female and have been taking Noten ( Atenolol) for about 10 years, for migraine headaches, which I feel has really helped. I have been feeling very dizzy, tightness in the chest (mainly at night) and also shaky, over the last 4 weeks. I have been to the GP today and she did an ECG which showed my heart rate is 47 BPM, so I have been booked in for more tests…is this normal on this medication?…I have not been doing any exercise, so I am not fit.
    If anyone has any answers for me, I would be very grateful…Thanks

  13. P T
    Reply

    I have recently found out that I have high blood pressure. My doctor prescribed Attacand 16mg for me. From the third day I noticed that I heard a sound on my right ear. Few days latter I felt the same sound on the other ear as well. The result was that I had a severe lost of hearing. My doctor said it was not attacand responsible for this and he told me to continue taking it. After a month I had a check again and we found out that my hearing loss became more severe. Doctors insist that the medicine is not responsible. But I gave it up because I think it is.

  14. IK
    Reply

    I have been on Atacand for about 2 years now but over the last 3 or 4 months I have a constant running nose a cough feel like have flu all the time have taken cold flu medication but get no relief. I do have asthma but has always be well controlled never had anything like this before. I also feel tired all the time plus lost sense of smell this is not me at all, so went on website to see if anyone else had the same and yes I was surprised by the amount that had the same symptoms also had weight gain and bags under eyes, so I will be going to see my doctor.

  15. jules
    Reply

    I have been on the atenolol for five months my doctor put me on it for hyperactive thyroidism. I have gone to eight doctors this week and have complained to my doctor about so many symptoms I have had on this medication. I started having cramps run though my arms and legs and now I have pain as if my blood is flowing to fast to my feet and hands. I started getting circulation problems on this medication. I am worried every day I am gonna die from my blood being constricted to other parts of my body.
    I wish someone could tell me what is going on I have had a lot of tests over this matter and everything seems to be fine other wise. The one thing I have noticed is I have been off of the atenolol for ten days but I noticed my heart rate has been going up and my heart beats are a little over ninety beats per minute. I took not even a half a atenolol today but I’m worried what I should do about tomorrow my doctor told me I can take them as needed. Does anyone know what I should do I am only twenty-nine years old.

  16. Barbara B.
    Reply

    I have a side effect that the doctor says he’s never heard of, and I really need to know if anyone else has experienced this. About a year ago I was put on a BP med (can’t remember the name of it) and after a couple of months I started noticing a strong sort of sickly sweet chemical smell and realized I was emitting it. It was all in my clothes, terrible, I smelled it constantly. Stopped taking the med, smell went away, the doctor then put me on a combination of Lisinopril and Amlodipine.
    This was fine for about 7 months, then a week ago I started noticing the same smell. Stopped taking meds and it’s taken a week for the smell to go away. I haven’t called my doctor yet because I was on a trip and just got back. My suitcase reeked of it.I cannot live with this smell!

  17. george
    Reply

    I am a 62 year old white male, I had a angioplasty with 4 stents 6 years ago.
    Lately going up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment, I started getting dizzy and out of breath, I only weigh 180 lbs 5ft 9in tall, as soon as i sat down for 5 min the dizziness and shortness of breadth would go away.
    I have been on 10 mg of lisinopril, plus I have been getting some dry cough. I will be seeing my doctor this week to change

  18. TG
    Reply

    Diagnosed with HPT. Put on 100mgs atenolol as had reaction to Diovan. Also Cardura 4 mgs a day, 2+2. BP is fine after a month but short term memory is shot, depressed, no appetite and don’t have the strength to even get out of bed most days let alone exercise. Back cramps under right shoulder blade so bad I can scream and he tells me take Tylenol! Also eye problems with dryness. Been to Doctor several times and he insists not side effect of meds and has more tests scheduled than you can shake a stick at. Wants MRI for Head for memory loss that I never had till I started these meds, already had ekg, chect ex rays full lipid workup etc. Now wants more tests.
    Is short term memory loss a side effect, I know cramping is and back pain.
    Thank you!!!! (I think I need new doctor)

  19. pm
    Reply

    Hi, my 19yr old son has Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathies (with left ventricular hypertrophy) and can no longer work due to severity of his condition. He is on Noten, which seems to be helping, but still gets chest pain/angina and constantly tired with major chest pain after minor exercise. They started him on Coversyl as well as Noten which gave major breathing problems, insomnia and night terrors.
    Then started on Tritace and still major breathing/cough. Tried Micardis and it was worse. Tried Norvasc and headaches all day and night but some relief, tried Lercan and headaches worse with quite bad angina. Started dithiazide yesterday and it wasn’t any better. We have become so frustrated because nothing seems to be helping and costs heaps going back to Cardiologist and different medicines every few days. Has anyone got any ideas that actually may help??? A very frustrated father that only wants to look after his son! Thank you.

  20. clw
    Reply

    It’s so interesting reading other people’s concerns about HBP medications and side effects. I live in a stressful city and have a stress-inducing job. About 3 yrs ago I was put on Atenolol (low dose) and 12.5mg Hydrochlorothyazide (HCT) for pre-hypertension. I took it for a little over a week, I started having distressful dreams and had two very pronounced panic attacks. I stopped taking the Atenolol. Time passed I was still dancing around the pre-hypertension BP numbers – I was put on 5mg Lisinopril about a year ago.
    I dislike taking these pills, but I still do. Among other things like an occasional dry cough, I’ve been experiencing shortness of breath around the 3rd – 4th flight of stairs at the office and I’d blamed myself, I didn’t realize until reading this forum that the Lisinopril could be a culprit. Maybe I just need to move away from this environment.

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