- What are beta-blockers?
- What type of patient would use beta-blockers?
- Foods to avoid when taking beta-blockers
- Foods to eat when taking beta-blockers
- Other things to avoid while taking beta-blockers
- Should beta-blockers be taken with food?
- What is the best time to take beta-blockers?
- How long do beta-blockers stay in your system?
- Any other safety concerns?
- How to reduce the side effects of beta-blockers
Beta-blockers are a commonly-prescribed type of prescription medication.
Drugs like beta-blockers come with certain risks and potential side effects, which may require you to alter your diet while taking them.
Keep reading to learn which foods to avoid when taking beta blockers, and which foods you should include in your diet.
What are beta-blockers?
Beta-blockers are a type of medication to help slow your heart rate. Beta-blockers block the action of adrenergic receptors, which are proteins that bind to hormones like epinephrine, which is released during stress and increases your heart rate.
There are different types of beta-blockers, and dosages vary. Some commonly prescribed beta-blockers include:
- Atenolol (brand name Tenormin)
- Bisoprolol (brand names Cardicor or Emcor)
- Labetalol (brand name Trandate)
- Metoprolol (brand names Betaloc or Lopressor)
- Propranolol (brand name Inderal)
Beta-blockers are in pill form and come in many different strengths. The lowest typical beta-blocker dose is 10 milligrams. Some extended-release versions are as high as 160 milligrams.
What type of patient would use beta-blockers?
Patients use beta-blockers to treat a variety of health conditions. The most common reason doctors prescribe beta-blockers is to treat heart arrhythmias, a condition where your heart doesn’t beat rhythmically. Other things beta-blockers are used for include:
- Heart failure
- Chest pain (angina)
- Heart disease (including heart attacks, high blood pressure, etc.)
- Certain types of tremors
- POTS (postural tachycardia syndrome)
Foods to avoid when taking beta-blockers
Certain types of beta-blockers can increase the amount of potassium in your blood. Having too much potassium in your bloodstream is called hyperkalemia, and it can lead to serious health issues in some cases.
The types of beta-blockers most likely to cause hyperkalemia are non-selective beta-blockers. Examples of non-selective beta-blockers are pindolol, alprenolol, nadolol, carvedilol, labetalol, and propranolol.
Examples of high-potassium foods include:
- Bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit
- Some dried fruits like prunes, raisins, and dates
- Cooked broccoli
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens
You should only avoid high-potassium foods when taking beta-blockers if your healthcare provider recommends it. Otherwise, eating potassium-rich foods can be beneficial for promoting healthy blood pressure levels.
Some supplements might be high in potassium, so you should check with your healthcare team to see if they’re safe to take while on beta-blockers.
Grapefruit & some fruit juices
Grapefruit is a high-potassium food, but you should avoid it while taking beta-blockers for another reason. Some beta-blockers interact with grapefruit in a way that reduces their absorption, which can make them not as effective.
You should ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if your prescribed type of beta-blocker interacts with grapefruit.
Grapefruit juice, apple juice, and orange juice should also be avoided when taking beta-blockers, including atenolol, celiprolol, and talinolol, because they can reduce the absorption of the beta-blocker.
It’s not recommended to drink alcohol while taking beta-blockers. Alcohol can worsen the side effects of beta-blockers like dizziness and low blood pressure, which puts you at risk of falling.
However, depending on your dosage, drinking small amounts of alcohol might be permitted. If you do choose to drink alcohol while taking beta-blockers, ask your healthcare provider about a potential “safe” amount. And try to time it so you don’t drink alcohol right after taking a dose of your beta-blocker.
If you’re taking beta-blockers for heart problems, you should be careful about how much sodium you consume. Excess sodium consumption can worsen heart disease, including high blood pressure and heart failure.
It’s recommended to keep your sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams per day. However, the average American consumes 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day.
Excess sodium is found in processed and convenience foods like fast food, frozen entrees, canned soups, and deli meats. Other sources of sodium might not be as obvious, but they can add up quickly if you eat several servings per day, such as quick bread mixes (like pancake mix, muffin mix, etc.) and regular bread products.
Fast food and prepared foods are typically high in sodium. If you do eat fast food or processed food, try to watch your portion sizes and balance the higher-sodium foods with plenty of whole, less processed foods.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40% of the sodium in the typical Western diet comes from these ten foods:
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Burritos and tacos
- Savory snacks (pretzels, jerky, chips, etc.)
- Eggs and Omelets
Caffeine is a stimulant that can make your heart beat faster and raise your blood pressure. Drinking caffeine in moderation can be safe while taking beta-blockers. But if you have heart failure, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, or other health conditions, you should be cautious of how much caffeine you consume.
Caffeinated drinks include certain types of soda, coffee (including drip coffee and espresso), energy drinks, and caffeinated teas (green and black tea). Some supplements may also contain caffeine, so be sure to check the ingredients list.
Foods to eat when taking beta-blockers
Eating a diet rich in heart-healthy foods is ideal when taking beta-blockers, especially if you take beta-blockers for heart concerns. Even if you’re not taking beta-blockers for your heart, a heart-healthy diet is a healthy diet that can benefit everyone, regardless of any health problems.
You might be under the impression that high-fat foods are “bad” for you, which is not the case. Salmon is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation that can cause heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acids might also help reduce high blood pressure, which is one of the conditions beta-blockers treats. Try replacing high-saturated fat red meat with salmon and other fish to improve your cholesterol levels and heart health.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber and healthy fats. Some nuts are especially good sources of magnesium, a mineral that helps support healthy blood pressure levels. Magnesium helps relax your blood vessels, which helps lower high blood pressure.
A study found that taking magnesium and beta-blockers helped reduce blood pressure levels in people with high blood pressure. (Be sure to ask your healthcare provider about any supplements you might want to take while on other medications.)
Getting magnesium from whole foods like nuts and seeds provides additional health benefits compared to taking a supplement alone, such as fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Nuts and seeds are a staple in a heart-healthy eating plan.
Fruits and vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are usually good sources of potassium, a mineral that helps relax your blood vessels and improve blood flow.
The DASH diet (used to treat high blood pressure) is usually higher in potassium than a typical Western diet because it’s rich in plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables.
As mentioned earlier, be sure to avoid high-potassium foods when taking beta-blockers if you’re at risk of developing high blood potassium levels.
All fruits and vegetables have benefits, but beets may be particularly beneficial to eat if you are taking beta-blockers to treat high blood pressure.
Beets are one of the highest sources of natural nitrates. Your body converts nitrates to nitric oxide, which helps improve blood flow and circulation.
If you’re not a big fan of beets, beetroot juice may offer similar benefits. Drinking beetroot juice increased nitric oxide metabolism in men and women regardless of their body mass, according to a study.
Other things to avoid while taking beta-blockers
Certain medications might interfere with how beta-blockers work. Some medications you should ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about are:
- Other medicines used to treat high blood pressure
- Certain antidepressants
- Allergy shots
- Medicines to treat diabetes, including oral medication and insulin.
- Medicines to treat asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or COPD
Beta-blockers might not be safe to take during pregnancy or while nursing. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you’re planning to become pregnant, are already pregnant, or are planning to breastfeed.
Should beta-blockers be taken with food?
Taking beta-blockers with food can help minimize their side effects by slowing the absorption of the drug. If you take beta-blockers on an empty stomach, the drug is more rapidly absorbed into your system and might result in more severe side effects.
What is the best time to take beta-blockers?
You should take beta-blockers at the time your healthcare provider recommends. Common recommended times to take beta-blockers are in the morning, with meals, and at bedtime. When you take beta-blockers depends on the reason you’re taking them, as well as the dosage.
For instance, some people take beta-blockers for performance anxiety, such as with public speaking. In those cases, patients are meant to take beta-blockers around an hour before the event and only as needed.
How long do beta-blockers stay in your system?
How long beta-blockers stay in your system depends on the type of beta-blocker you’re using. In general, beta-blockers have a half-life of around 2-4 hours, which means that half of the total dose would be in your system 2-4 hours after taking the beta-blocker.
Beta-blockers don’t stay in your system as long as some other medications, which is why dosages of regular-release (not extended-release) tablets are usually more than once daily.
Any other safety concerns?
Like any medication, beta-blockers come with potential side effects. Some of the most commonly experienced side effects while taking beta-blockers include:
- Feeling tired, dizzy, or lightheaded
- Exercise intolerance (feeling like exercise is more difficult than it is without beta-blockers)
- Cold fingers or toes
- Difficulties sleeping or nightmares
- Feeling sick
Taking beta-blockers also comes with the risk of low blood pressure and low heart rate. If you’re taking other medications that lower your blood pressure, you might be at an increased risk of low blood pressure.
Taking beta-blockers with insulin might make it harder to recognize symptoms of low blood sugar, which could lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
You should notify your healthcare provider and/or pharmacist about any other medications you’re taking before you start taking a beta-blocker for the first time.
How to reduce the side effects of beta-blockers
The best way to reduce the potential side effects of beta-blockers is to take them as prescribed. Avoid taking more beta-blockers than you’re prescribed, and don’t double-up on doses if you miss a dose.
Taking beta-blockers with food may also help reduce common side effects.
Beta-blockers are most commonly prescribed to treat heart conditions like high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. Eating a heart-healthy diet is recommended while taking beta-blockers since it can help you achieve a goal of improved heart health.
Certain drinks like caffeinated and alcoholic drinks aren’t recommended while taking beta-blockers because they can counteract the medication’s impact and/or worsen side effects.
Always speak with your healthcare provider about specific recommendations for your particular case and type of beta-blocker in order to ensure you’re not restricting potentially beneficial foods, like those high in potassium.
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