Beta blockers have long been a go-to treatment for managing heart attacks, but the benefits of long-term use of these drugs may not be as significant as previously thought, according to a new study published in the international journal “The Heart.”
The study followed over 40,000 heart attack patients and found that long-term treatment with beta blockers was not associated with improved cardiovascular outcomes during an average monitoring period of 4.5 years. Beta blockers are a class of drugs used to manage abnormal heart rhythms, angina, and high blood pressure. They are often prescribed routinely to those with a history of heart attack to lower the risk of recurrence of the condition.
Researchers followed up for one year 43,618 adults who had a heart attack between 2005 and 2016 and were treated in a hospital. Their details had been entered into the national Swedish register for coronary heart disease (Swedeheart). Of all the patients, 34,253 of the study subjects were prescribed beta blockers and were still on these drugs one year after discharge from the hospital, while 9,365 had not been prescribed these drugs.
The results found that those using beta blockers did not have significantly improved outcomes than those not on the drugs. “Some 6,475 (19%) of those on beta blockers, and 2,028 (22%) of those who weren’t, died from any cause, or had another heart attack, or required unscheduled revascularisation, or were admitted to hospital for heart failure,” the study revealed. “After accounting for potentially influential factors, including demographics and relevant co-existing conditions, there was no discernible difference in the rates of these events between the two groups.”
It’s worth noting that the study was an observational one, and as such, it cannot establish cause. While it’s the largest study of its kind to date, the findings should be viewed in the context of certain limitations.
The study further noted that beta blockers are associated with side effects such as depression and fatigue, and as a result, the value of long-term treatment with these drugs in heart attack patients who don’t have heart failure or LVSD (Left Ventricular Systolic Dysfunction) needs reassessment.
Mohit Gupta, a professor of cardiology at Delhi’s GB Pant, said that the findings needed to be further verified. “Beta-blockers are inexpensive… The current evidence is strong for their use by patients with a history of heart attack to prevent recurrence of the condition. We need strong evidence to deviate from it.”
Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline on the heart. They can slow down the heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and help to control abnormal heart rhythms. These drugs are generally well-tolerated and have been used to treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, migraine headaches, and glaucoma.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, and heart attacks can be particularly deadly. Treatment typically involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and in some cases, surgery. Beta blockers have been an important part of that treatment for.