Q. I have been taking atenolol for several years and have been troubled with symptoms that have gone undiagnosed despite untold hours in doctors’ offices. I have even been hospitalized with extreme dizziness and heart palpitations. Sometimes I gasp for air after simply climbing the stairs to my home. I also suffer with cold feet and hands.
Just today I was at the doctor’s office with chest pain, breathing problems and heart palpitations. She said my blood pressure was 100/60 and told me she thought it was due to the atenolol. She suggested I cut back to every other day. I wonder if this drug has been the problem all along.
A. Atenolol is a beta-blocker like metoprolol and propranolol. Such drugs were once first-line treatments against hypertension, but experts now recommend that they be used only when other approaches are inadequate.
Beta-blockers are notorious for causing cold hands and feet, fatigue and dizziness. They can also cause breathing difficulties or make asthma worse.
We are sending you our book, Best Choices from The People’s Pharmacy, for an in-depth discussion of beta-blocker side effects and other ways to treat high blood pressure.
Atenolol and other beta-blockers should never be stopped abruptly, as this could trigger angina or even a heart attack. Alternate day treatment is untested and might carry risks.