Beta Blockers: Safe for Asthma?

In the world of modern medicine, beta blockers are a staple of treating heart disease and high blood pressure, headache prevention, and even in reducing performance anxiety. However, there has always been some contention about whether or not beta blockers are safe for those suffering from asthma. Is this the case? To understand, let's take a look at how beta blockers work.

What Beta Blockers Do

Developed to put ease on the heart and reduce blood pressure, beta blockers are a type of medication that “block� beta receptors in different parts of your body – effectively stopping them from sending messages to the rest of your body and elevating blood pressure. This helps reduce blood pressure and heart disease because there are many beta receptors on blood vessels and on the heart itself. Blocking these receptors relaxes the blood vessels and slows down the heart – effectively reducing blood pressure and helping your heart pump more easily. However, this approach causes significant problems for asthma sufferers because there are many other beta receptors in the lungs and other air passages (such as the bronchi and bronchioles). Those beta receptors help to keep the airway relaxed and loose, allowing for easy breathing.  Administration of beta blockers can tighten those airways, and while those effects may be barely noticeable in someone with a well-functioning respiratory system, it can be life threatening to someone suffering from asthma.

Targeting Specific Receptors

Recent medical developments have led to the creation of targeted beta blocker products. These medications are designed to target separate types of beta-receptors found in different parts of the body. There are two types of beta-receptors labeled as Beta-1 and Beta-2. The receptors found in the heart and blood cells are mostly made of Beta-1 receptors, while the lungs and airways are made up of Beta-2 receptors. Selective beta blockers will target only the Beta-1 receptors, thus leaving your lungs nearly unaffected. However, these products are new in development and the targeting process isn't always exact. If you're considering taking selective beta blockers, it's very important to work with your doctor, who will help monitor your condition and advise you if complications arise.


While beta blockers are a useful medication for treating heart conditions, the risks of harm to asthma sufferers are moderate to strong. If you're an asthmatic suffering from high blood pressure or other heart conditions, it would be prudent to first explore other, natural options and to only use beta blockers as a last resort. Observing a healthy, low-fat diet and taking regular exercise go a long way. Other less risky products do exist and may solve the problem for you without the hassle and stress going on a new medication can cause.


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