Beta blockers are one of the most commonly prescribed classes of medications in the United States. For decades, they have been used for the treatment of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases. The relationship between weight gain and beta blockers is a common yet underrecognized side effect that many experience. In this article we will discuss why beta blockers may cause weight gain and how you can manage it.
What Are Beta Blockers?
Beta blockers work by blocking effects of adrenaline, causing the heart to beat more slowly and with less force. Certain beta blockers may also relax the blood vessels. They are primarily used for the treatment of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure and arrhythmias. Treatment of migraine headaches, anxiety, hyperthyroidism, and tremors are other common uses for beta blockers. Below are some examples of common beta blockers:
- Atenolol (TenorminⓇ)
- Carvedilol (CoregⓇ)
- Labetalol (TrandateⓇ)
- Metoprolol (LopressorⓇ)
- Nebivolol (BystolicⓇ)
- Propranolol (Inderal LAⓇ)
- Sotalol (BetapaceⓇ)
For years, beta blockers have been known to have weight gain as a potential side effect according to a journal from the American Heart Association. Data from multiple studies of participants on beta blockers for the treatment of high blood pressure found that within the first few months of starting the medication, they experienced a mean weight gain of 2.6 pounds. This may not seem like a significant difference, but it is an average of the group, there is a possibility that some participants gained more than 2.6 pounds and some gained less. At this time, it is unknown what specific individuals are more likely to gain weight with beta blocker use.
Other research suggests that some beta blockers may affect a person’s ability to lose weight. One study analyzed participants who were taking older beta blockers such as metoprolol, atenolol, propranolol, and bisoprolol while enrolled in a diet and exercise program experienced less weight loss than those not taking beta blockers or taking newer beta blocker medications. This was a significant difference between 2-7%. Losing as much as 5% of your body weight can significantly improve cardiovascular health and improve blood pressure.
Despite these potential side effects, it’s important to recognize that not all beta blockers have these adverse effects on weight. Several studies have found that older beta blockers such as metoprolol are more likely to cause weight gain than newer beta blockers such as carvedilol. Further data has suggested that patients have had more success when enrolled in a weight loss program while taking newer beta blockers than those not taking beta blockers at all, however there is more research necessary in this area to make this conclusion.
How Do Beta Blockers Cause Weight Gain?
Beta blockers work by slowing down your heart rate, leading to overall lowered total daily energy expenditure. This may make physical activity feel more difficult and tiring, therefore decreasing your likelihood to continue exercising.
It is important to remember that weight gain can happen for other reasons, even though you are taking a beta blocker. Tracking your weight closely and notifying your healthcare provider if you notice a sudden change in your weight are the best ways to be proactive in keeping your health on track.
How to Prevent Weight Gain While on Beta Blockers
If you have any concerns about beta blockers affecting your weight, it’s a good idea to discuss the change with your healthcare provider and discuss solutions that could work for you. If you take beta blockers solely to treat high blood pressure, there may be other medications you could take that are less likely to cause weight gain. There may also be other beta blockers available that are less likely to cause weight gain such as carvedilol or nebivolol. Do not stop taking any prescribed medication without discussing it first with your healthcare provider.
If your healthcare provider suggests staying on a beta blocker that may cause weight gain, it does not mean that you will have to live with excess weight. Here are some tips to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight:
- Eat nutritious foods. For weight management, it is essential to incorporate vegetables, fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats (such as seeds, nuts, fish, or avocado) in your day to day diet. Research has actually shown that following a healthy diet can lower blood pressure as effectively as medication. If you need more direction in how to start and stick to a healthy diet, you may want to speak with a Registered Dietitian.
- Stay active. Exercise has long been considered an important part of achieving and maintaining weight loss as well as improving blood pressure and lowering risk of heart disease. Physical activity can look different for everyone whether it’s seated exercises, taking a walk, or water aerobics. Everyone starts in a different place with their exercise journey. If you are new to exercise or don’t know where to start, consult a health professional to discuss what the best exercises may be for you.
- Track your habits. Findingthe most effective ways of monitoring yourself has been shown to lead to more weight loss. Activities such as tracking your physical activity, food journaling, or weighing yourself regularly will help you have a clearer picture of how you are tracking towards your goals. This is a measure that allows you to catch weight gain quicker and be proactive about shifting your habits to adjust to that change and understand why it’s happening.
- Get enough sleep. On average, a person should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night and aim to go to bed consistently around the same time. If you are experiencing poor sleep, whether that be falling asleep or staying asleep, it is important that you consult your doctor. Getting adequate sleep is key to your health and maintaining weight loss.
If beta blockers are a necessary part of your treatment plan and you are concerned about them affecting your weight, consider medical weight loss. Your care team through a medical weight loss program should be able to help you use tools like physical activity, nutrition, mindset shifts, and more to help improve your health. As always, do not stop taking any prescribed medication without discussing it first with your healthcare provider.
- TenorminⓇ is a registered trademark of Astrazeneca.
- CoregⓇ is a registered trademark of GlaxoSmithKline
- TrandateⓇ is a registered trademark of Prometheus Laboratories, Inc.
- LopressorⓇ is a registered trademark of Validus Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
- BystolicⓇ is a registered trademark of Allergan, Inc.
- Inderal LAⓇ is a registered trademark of Akrimax Pharmaceuticals
- SotalolⓇ is a registered trademark of Covis Pharma