High Blood Pressure Treatment (cont.)
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
In this Article
The sympathetic nervous system is a part of the nervous system that helps to regulate certain involuntary (autonomic) functions in the body such as the function of the heart and blood vessels. The nerves of the sympathetic nervous system extend throughout the body and exert their effects by releasing chemicals that travel to nearby cells in the body. The released chemicals bind to receptors (molecules) on the surface of the nearby cells and stimulate or inhibit the function of the cells. In the heart and blood vessels, the receptors for the sympathetic nervous system that are most important are the beta receptors. When stimulated, beta-receptors in the heart increase the heart rate and the strength of heart contractions (pumping action). Beta-blocking drugs acting on the heart slow the heart rate and reduce the force of the heart's contraction.
Stimulation of beta-receptors in the smooth muscle of the peripheral arteries and in the airways of the lung causes these muscles to relax. Beta blockers cause contraction of the smooth muscle of the peripheral arteries and thereby decrease blood flow to body tissues. As a result, the patient may experience coolness in the hands and feet. In response to the beta blockers, the airways are squeezed (constricted) by the contracting smooth muscle; this squeezing (impingement) on the airway causes wheezing, especially in individuals with a tendency for asthma.
Beta blockers remain useful medications in treating hypertension, especially in patients with a fast heartbeat while resting (tachycardia), cardiac chest pain (angina), or a recent heart attack (myocardial infarction). Beta blockers appear to improve long-term survival when given to patients who have had a heart attack. Whether beta blockers can prevent heart problems (are cardioprotective) in patients with hypertension any more than other antihypertensive medications is uncertain. Beta blockers may be considered for treatment of hypertension because they also may treat co-existing medical problems, such as chronic anxiety or migraine headaches. Common side effects of these drugs include depression, fatigue, nightmares, sexual impotence in males, and increased wheezing in people with asthma.
The beta blockers include:
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/9/2014
Viewers share their comments
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Experience Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your high blood pressure?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Diet Question: How did you change your diet to lower your blood pressure?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Smoking Question: Are you a smoker or former smoker undergoing treatment for high blood pressure? After diagnosis, did you quit smoking?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Alcohol Question: Do you have hypertension and also drink alcohol? Have you cut back since receiving a diagnosis?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Coffee and Caffeine Question: In what ways do coffee and other caffeinated beverages affect your blood pressure?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Medications Question: What medications and other types of treatment do you receive for hypertension?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Alternative Medicine Question: Describe any alternative or complementary medicine you use to treat your high blood pressure.