Alpha blockers vs. beta blockers

Updated July 19, 2017

High blood pressure is common, and there are plenty of medications used for its treatment. Most medicines primarily affect one of the four different sites: the heart, peripheral blood vessels, brain or kidneys. Both alpha and beta blockers block alpha and beta receptors in the peripheral blood vessels.

Alpha Receptors

Your brain creates neurotransmitters called catecholamines, which are normally released when you are under stress. These elements allow the heart to beat more rapidly and with more power while blood vessels taper. As a result, your blood pressure rises.

How Alpha Blockers Work

Alpha blockers block catecholamines. The blood vessels loosen up and expand so that blood passes without a problem. This will effectively lower blood pressure.

Beta Receptors

The adrenal glands pump other catecholamines called epinephrine into the bloodstream. Epinephrine is known as adrenalin. When the body is under stress, it becomes exhausted and an overabundance of epinephrine is created. This can result in irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and heart failure,

How Beta Blockers Work

When you take beta blockers, the heart beats more slowly and with less force, thereby reducing blood pressure. Beta blockers also help blood vessels open up to improve blood flow.

Side Effects

Negative effects of beta blockers include diarrhoea, rash, slow heartbeat and impotence. They are not a good choice for diabetics or people with poor circulation because of the reduction in heart rate. Alpha blockers side effects include fluid retention, nasal congestion, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, weight gain, nightmares and vivid dreams. Alpha blockers have been known to also help men with prostrate issues.

Which is Better?

If you have just been diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk to your doctor on what, if any, medication is right for you. Both beta and alpha blocker are not recommended as the first line of medication in lowering high blood pressure. In addition to blocking beta receptors, certain beta blockers work to block alpha receptors, too. Alpha-beta adrenergic blockers join the effects of alpha blocker medication and beta blocker medication.

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