Dr. Volgman explains what women should know about beta blockers, their side effects, and if there is an alternative.
Beta-blockers are everywhere. If you’ve had a heart attack, you absolutely need a beta-blocker to decrease your risk of sudden cardiac death. It is the only drug; we have looked at many anti-arrhythmic drugs, and I am an electrophysiologist. I was one of the ones studying these drugs that were killing people instead of helping them.
So after all of those decades of trying to use anti-arrhythmic drugs to decrease sudden cardiac death, finally we find that it’s only beta-blockers that can decrease sudden cardiac death. And the nice thing is fish oils can also decrease sudden cardiac death, but because beta-blockers are a necessary drug for most patients who have already had heart disease, it’s necessary for us to give it to them. But one of the biggest problems with it is it has many side effects.
So many of my patients have fatigue, depression, and for young men, it decreases their libido, erectile dysfunction, and they don’t want to take it. And one of the best new drugs that I have seen in the market is Nebivolol or Bystolic, and it’s only been approved recently in the United States. It has been used by the Europeans for the past 11 years, and that’s why the Europeans are so much happier than Americans because they have this drug, and they are running around less depressed than Americans because we don’t have this drug.
So it’s one of the best drugs that’s available now in the market. I have been using it now for the past few months in my young patients and in my old patients who are depressed and fatigued from the beta-blockers. So it is a great new addendum to our medical regimen.
About Dr. Volgman, M.D., F.A.C.C.:
Annabelle S. Volgman is associate professor of medicine and medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Dr. Volgman graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, and received her medical doctorate degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. She received her internal medicine training at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics and her cardiology fellowship training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She was a fellow in clinical electrophysiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Illinois Masonic Medical Center under Richard Kehoe, M.D.
Dr. Volgman has published numerous abstracts and articles in multiple topics of women and heart disease as well as cardiac electrophysiology. She is currently president of the Metro Chicago Board of Directors of the AHA. She has been a prominent leader of the Go Red for Women movement and has received numerous awards from the American Heart Association. She has been listed in several lists of top doctors and was named a top doctor in the January 2008 issue of “Chicago Magazine.” She has been interviewed by numerous media about health issues and was featured in “O” magazine as Oprah Winfrey’s cardiologist.
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