The People's Perspective on Medicine

Alternatives to Beta Blockers for Blood Pressure

Female hands with blood-pressure meter isolated over white

Q. I’m not a pill taker, but my doctors insist I get my blood pressure down to 120/80. I started on beta blockers (first propranolol, then atenolol and now metoprolol). They make my joints ache and I feel tired, depressed and disappointed. Diovan makes me weak and dizzy. My hair is falling out, my cholesterol is going up and my breathing is bad.

I used to feel great. I stayed active by walking and golfing. Now I can barely drag myself out of a chair. Are there any better medications or natural remedies I could ask my doctor about?

A. As important as it is to control hypertension, you should not have to curtail your activities because of blood pressure pills. Your medicines could well be contributing to your symptoms. Beta blockers are no longer considered the best first treatment for high blood pressure.

Exercise is important. Other natural approaches include pomegranate, grape or beet juice. Magnesium can also be helpful.

You will find more details on these and other natural approaches along with the pros and cons of various anti-hypertensive medicines in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
Blood Pressure Treatment

Learn about pros and cons of the various medicines used to lower blood pressure, as well as multiple non-drug approaches to blood pressure control such as diet, supplements and special foods.

Blood Pressure Treatment
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I am 71 years old and have been cancer-free for five years now. All of a sudden just a week ago I had an issue with shortness of breath and tingling in my left jaw and arm. I immediately went to the ER where I was diagnosed with heart fibrillation and high blood pressure. My blood pressure has always been very low. The doctors have said it was phenomenal.

Now all of a sudden I am on xarelto and metoprolol. The side effects are almost unbearable. I have only been on them for a week. and I am having horrific cramping in my legs and feet at night and really bad sore throat, which is one of the many side effects. My husband and I are doing all the healthy things possible, eating organic as much as possible doing lots of vegetables, fruits, fish and small amounts of red meat, drinking lots of filtered water. Has anyone else had or has the same problem, and what have you done?

I was placed on metoprolol Tartrate for high blood pressure and fast heart rate. I was on it for more than six years then started getting dizziness. Is there other meds apart from beta blocker that helps with high blood pressure and heart rate?

Anna, I believe you are correct on this. My blood pressure was getting high, and I went on to the ketogenic diet, a low carb; high fat; moderate protein diet, and my blood pressure was normalized very quickly. I am a firm believer that carbs are the cause of much of the HBP out there. I wish doctors tried natural approaches first, before giving people medications.

My dad had horrific side effects from metoprolol he was taking for A-fib. They were treating him for congestive heart failure for a few years. I kept insisting it was the drug. I asked them to find an alternative and to get him off of it. Well, they took him off of it while in the rehab place after a fall, without a replacement, and he had a stroke. Although he was also a diabetic, so we can’t be sure removing the drug, his diabetes or a clot from the bruise he sustained was the cause, however, we never put him back on it, and guess what? He his CHF symptoms went completely away. He no longer weighed 300 pounds. He shed 110 pounds of water weight, stopped coughing constantly, and his shortness of breath was gone.

He felt so much better and never did have another stroke. Do not suddenly stop taking the drug, and talk to you doctor if you take it for A-fib, but it definitely can have nasty side effects. Get second opinions if this drug is causing problems. My dad was miserable on it, and it really reduced his quality of life. I refused to be put on it, and reversed my high blood pressure naturally.

I have not yt? Been able to find a blood pressure pill that I my body can corporate I have had Ace , beta blooker s what s left?

i am a heart patient for the last 18 years(severe heart attack with 3 consecutive cardiac arrests)and since then am on medications –had 2 stents placed in my heart in 2005–i read about balk of a tree named arjun for heart–this tree is very common in india and pakistan–i had been chewing small pieces of its bark regularly for about a month or so–felt very relieved –my chest pains are almost finished–i regularly walk for about 45 minutes six times a week–non smoker,non alcoholic, still take medicines(25 gm beta blocker twice a day with loprin)i suggest people should try herbal medicines as well–specially arjun tree balk for heart problems
–but continue their other medicines too side by side.

Beta Blockers make users tired, no energy, lethargic. With atrial fibrillation there has to be another drug to calm the rhythm down without the above. I’m still searching.

I have been on Bystolic for about a year and I feel tired, my joints hurt, and circulation is so bad in my feet. Has anyone experienced these side effects? Also, I can’t sleep at night.

Beta Blockers sucked the energy out of me. My doctor started me on 25 mg. atenolol. I cut in half, then quarters. At 6-1/4 mg., I still feel fatigued. Plan to get my doc to change to something else, maybe Bystolic.

I have read that people over 65 should not take beta blockers but my doctors still prescribe them to me and I’m over 74. The pain in my legs at night is steadily worsening, and I have little or no energy. My blood pressure has always been on the high side, but my heart tests fine. I keep asking them for something else, and they insist this is all there is. What should I do?
People’s Pharmacy response: Find out why they think beta blockers are better for you. There are many other medicines to lower blood pressure, but beta blockers have some specific effects your doctors may have in mind. You have a right to know what they are.

I am now on Calcium Channel blockers… they have side effects (constipation, which is bad for me, as I have a colectomy), headache, neck aches… but I wouldn’t’ go back to the depression and balding of beta blockers for anything…. I hope you can find a dr. who will help you get off of them… I had to go to a cardiologist on my own and he told me that hair loss, tiredness and depression could certainly be caused by BB…CCB cause some depression and tiredness, too, but really, beta blockers are just not first line treatment for blood pressure anymore, if you are on Medicaid, VA, etc, they are just trying to save money..

I started on beta blockers 6 months ago and have now gained 17 lbs. I use to weigh 300 lbs and very proudly lost 125lbs in 2 years. I have now started to gain it back. I am tired all the time and even find myself napping in the middle of the day when I am not working. My cardiologist said he had not heard of beta blockers (metoprolol tartrate) causing weight gain.
I am tired and depressed over this issue. I exercise 5 days a week and eat fairly well. Do not know where to go from here.

I am sorry , I feel your pain…please dont go off BB without a drs supervision….I hate BB, but my bp has never come down since I tried to go off of them without tapering. I have been there, done that, with all your miseries, sorry to say.

I am responding to the questions on blood pressure meds and particularly atenolol and comments left. I began my ventures of poor health with a fall down the stairs at an old home about 14 yrs ago. Prior to this, I was swimming, running, good health. All the doctors would do is tell me to use Ibuprofen. The pain and burning down my legs was unbearable, sometimes I would not be able to walk, it was from my neck to lower back with continual inflammation.
I began to gain weight, within 5 years diagnosed with type II diabetes and my lymph glands were causing me trouble and by 2003 I had my BP go up fighting through a court issue on my parents estate, family issues and sisters cancer, then our home being burnt down.
I think these are some good excuses for a higher BP but other methods/remedies needed to be provided. I didn’t know about continual inflammation causing glucose changes and the snowball effect of all of this.
I believe all doctors should study and be honest with their patients on side effects and problems. I had several BP meds which one raised it so bad I went to the ER. I got on atenolol, and still remain on this at 2XD 50mg. am/pm now Nov 2011. I was told nothing was a “big deal” about being tossed out of bed with massive leg cramps, twisting muscles, and now burning pain in my feet and sometimes up my legs. Then swelling which at one time they added Divon at $160 a month which slowed my heart so much I felt like I could do nothing.
MY HEART IS EXCELLENT AND I WANT TO KEEP IT LIKE THAT. I add Vitamin D but I feel this BP med has done nothing to help me but merely hurt me more, metformin, Xanax over these years has seriously damaged my legs and body. I am working on going through changes to all alternatives, food supplements, whole food products and juicing/raw foods.

After taking Atenolol, how much time occurred before your depression started?

In April 2008 I started taking Atenolol for atrial fibrillation. It made feel exhausted all the time. I was hardly able to get anything done and didn’t have the energy or motivation to walk or go to my water aerobic class. I had maintained a 75 pound weight loss for two years and as soon as I went on atenolol I started gaining.
The heart doctor lowered my dosage but that wasn’t keeping the heart rate normal. I went to my endocrinologist and she changed my medication to Bystolic (nebivolol) and within 3 days I started feeling better. I now have much more energy and am back to exercising and walking again and have had the motivation to get back to Weight Watchers to take off the thirty pounds I gained in 3 months.

I am a heart patient and a beta blocker atenolol was prescribed by my cardiologist almost 2 years ago. It was during the year from the start of taking atenolol that I was suffering from depression to severe depression, so bad that it was a great effort to get downstairs to fix dinner for the kids. All I wanted to do was lay on the couch and sleep. Had no desire to do the things I enjoyed doing. Found no pleasure in anything. I attributed it to menopause. Then I suffered from severe headaches, and the vascular neurologist prescribed verapamil, a calcium channel blocker but that caused severe constipation. I also mentioned the the vas. neu. that I felt I was getting more depressed using verapamil.
He reviewed my meds and stated that if anything it’s the beta blocker atenolol that caused the depression. Looking back, the timing coincided. Fast forward, in Feb. 2008 I suffered 2 heart attacks…that partially explained the headaches. The cardiologist wanted me to continue on a beta blocker, which is important for heart attack sufferers. She tried me on several different b.b. and thank god, her research resulted in my now using bi-soprolol fummarate…no depression. As an aside, in June 2008, it was discovered that my right carotid was over 90 percent blocked…that is what caused that headaches. BTW, I am 55 youngster, but it’s never to early to start taking careful of yourself and get with good specialists for preventive care.

I am taking metropropol for a high heart rate. Would you suggest the same natural approaches to reduce that so I can get off the medication?

Hypertension often improves to the point that medications can be reduced or even eliminated on a diet that restricts sugars and starches, especially wheat grain (ven “whole” grain).
Most likely the improvement is due to lowered insulin production (insulin i s a fat storage and growth promoting hormone) and less fluid retention (fluid retention is a side effect of a high carb diet), resulting in weight loss. Most people who reduce their concentrated sugar and starch intake to a minimum, substituting with non-starchy vegetables while consuming enough protein and ample natural fats, find this way of eating very satisfying (no gnawing hunger as on calorie restricted and low fat/high carb diets) and the weight stays off while health improves.
Blood pressure can improve so rapidly when sugars and starches are eliminated from the diet, that it is wise to consult closely with a doctor to adjust any dosages of BP medications downward to avoid over medication.

DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) in Fish Oil helps to control blood pressure.
By taking four 300 mg Fish Oil capsules per day (each capsule contains 120 mg of DHA) I was able to discontinue my prescribed drug for blood pressure.

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