High blood pressure - hypertension, as the doctor says - is the main risk factor for stroke, heart failure and heart attack. Currently, more than 25 million people in Germany suffer from hypertension. According to guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO), blood pressure values of 140/90 mmHg are considered normal. Higher values must be treated. The treatment depends on the severity of the hypertension as well as on the age of the person affected.
A mild high blood pressure does not have to be treated right away with medication. Often it is enough to change the way of life:
- Aim for normal weight
- limit the consumption of alcohol
- Replace saline with spices and herbs
- Stop smoking
- to provide more physical exercise
If a drug treatment of high blood pressure is necessary, so-called beta-blockers are used among other things. Their name derives the beta-blockers from the beta-receptors. One can well imagine these receptors as "docking points" for hormones and other "messenger substances" on the cells. They work according to the key-lock principle: Each receptor is a lock that can be unlocked with certain "keys", ie certain hormones. The neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are increasingly found in the body during stress, increase blood pressure via two mechanisms:
At the heart, they bind beta-1 receptors, causing an increase in heart rate and cardiac output. This allows the heart to pump more blood into the circulation in less time, allowing the body to perform better in the stress situation. This temporarily increases blood pressure - as adrenaline and norepinephrine release, blood pressure also decreases.
A longer-term increase in blood pressure reach the stress hormones via beta-1 receptors on the kidney. If they bind there, certain substances are released, which lead to an increased formation of the hormone angiotensin-II. This hormone causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, causing blood pressure to rise.
Beta-blocker for high blood pressure and heart failure
Beta blockers block the beta receptors, preventing adrenaline and norepinephrine from binding. Due to the lack of effect of the hormones, blood pressure and heart rate decrease.
In addition to the use against hypertension beta-blockers can also be used in the therapy of heart failure. In the past, it was assumed that in case of a weak heart, it does not make sense to suppress the effects of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Nevertheless, beta-blockers were used in patients with heart failure as early as the 1960s. Meanwhile, studies have shown that beta-blockers also improve the symptoms of symptoms and improve cardiac output in patients with heart failure.
The explanation for the effectiveness of beta-blockers in heart failure is that the heart has to work less by lowering blood pressure and heart rate, giving it the opportunity to recover. A decrease in heart size was also observed. This will make the heart more powerful and can emit more blood per heartbeat. The recovery factor for the heart is so great that even patients with severe heart failure benefit from it.