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Beta blockers are a diverse group of medications frequently used to treat hypertension. Many of them have been found to affect the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose. When glucose regulation is impaired, diabetes may develop. Both hypertension and diabetes are increasing in incidence, and studies have been conducted to determine if there is a connection between the development of diabetes and beta blockers. One large research study has indicated that the risk of developing diabetes is increased by 50 percent for those patients taking beta blockers when compared to patients taking different classes of medications for hypertension.
Primarily used to treat high blood pressure, beta blockers are also prescribed to patients with angina, heart arrhythmia, and heart failure. Some medical professionals believe that many new cases of diabetes could be prevented if newer hypertension medications were used instead of beta blockers. A number of these newer medications have been shown to decrease the risk for developing diabetes. Although there is a connection between diabetes and beta blockers, researchers stress that few of all the diagnosed cases of the disease are due to these medications.
According to the research study confirming the connection between diabetes and beta blockers, these medications are not only ill advised for those with diabetes but also may not be a good choice for people with any sign of blood sugar irregularities. The study compared the rates of developing diabetes for people taking beta blockers and a diuretic for hypertension with patients taking two other medications. It was found that the combination of a beta blocker and diuretic increased the risk of developing diabetes by 50 percent compared to the other medications. Other side effects of beta blockers include fatigue, insomnia and nausea.
The causes of diabetes are complex and not fully understood, but many lifestyle factors are believed to contribute to the development of the disease. Obesity, food choices and a sedentary lifestyle have all been found to increase the risk. Hypertension itself may increase the chance of developing diabetes, but it is also a complication of having diabetes. Treating diabetes generally includes monitoring overall cardiovascular health and blood pressure. Due to the connection between diabetes and beta blockers, medical professionals are beginning to choose other medications to treat high blood pressure.
Traditionally, the use of beta blockers has been cautioned against for patients with diabetes because the medication slows the heartbeat. This can mask the warning symptom of a racing heart that comes with low blood sugar. With increasing awareness of some beta blockers' role in raising the risk of developing diabetes, further caution is being advised in prescribing this medication. Monitoring of non-diabetic patients for changes in their blood sugar levels while they are on the medication is recommended to prevent possible problems with diabetes and beta blockers. Patients are advised to not stop taking their medication without the assistance of their health care provider.