Have you ever heard of Beta Blockers? With Obesity rates on the rise, we are seeing a corollary increase in Heart Disease. In 2017 alone, Cardiovascular Disease was the underlying cause of 868, 662 deaths in the US, claiming more lives each year than all forms of cancer combined (American Heart Association, 2021). The Heart and Stroke Foundation defines Heart Disease as any condition that affects the function or structure of the heart (Heart and Stroke Foundation, 2021).
Many common conditions include Coronary Artery and Vascular Diseases, Irregular Heart Rhythms, Structural Heart Diseases and Heart Failure. Breaking these diseases down further, there are many pre-emptive conditions that can lead to a form of Cardiovascular Disease. Most commonly, Hypertension (high blood pressure) and Myocardial Infarction (heart attack). When facing a diagnosis of Cardiovascular Disease, one may consider introducing positive lifestyle modifications, such as the introduction of cardiovascular exercise, to reduce the risk of a worsening condition.
So what do Beta Blockers have to do with cardio and cardiac disease? And why do they matter? First of all, it is always a wise idea to consult your Doctor prior to beginning a new diet or exercise plan. Cardiovascular conditions are complex, and thus each person is treated uniquely concerning their specific needs. Secondly, the information provided in this article is simply intended to educate those who are already under the care of a doctor and taking Beta-Blockers.
Now to get down to the “heart” of it, Beta Blockers are a common drug prescribed to many patients with a diagnosis of Hypertension (high blood pressure), Arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm), Heart Failure, Heart Attack, Angina (chest pain), and for many other conditions. There are three main groupings of Beta Blockers, and many are prescribed this class of drug in conjunction with other cardiac medications. The purpose of Beta-Blockers is to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, thereby reducing the chance of developing Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke and other serious conditions. The effects of these medications are patient-specific, and so are their effects in relation to exercise.
When introducing cardio, we often use the Target Heart Rate Method to ensure we are working in accordance with our goals. To estimate heart rate percentage during cardio, the standard formula is:
(220 – age) x desired heart rate percentage.
For moderate to intense physical activity, this is usually between 60%-70% heart rate maximum. For high-intensity cardio, we usually aim for 80-90% heart rate max.
If you’ll remember, Beta Blockers are utilized to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, which is an important cardiac consideration to “take to heart.” Due to the effectiveness of this class of drug, those who implement a cardio routine while taking a Beta Blocker will have to be mindful that the traditional method of measuring
cardiovascular intensity may be inapplicable. This does not mean that they’re not benefiting from the cardiovascular benefits of cardio, it simply means that if they are unable to meet a specific target heart rate percentage, they should consider another method to assess exertion rates.
The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale, although subjective to personal bias, is an alternative many used to monitor and trend cardiovascular exertion over time. This scale utilizes physical sensations to determine exertion, such as breathlessness, sweating, muscle fatigue and more. This scale is widely available on the internet for reference.
Ironically, those who take Beta Blockers who are unable to reach standardized perceived heart rate targets using the Target Heart Rate Method may actually be overexerting themselves, solidifying the importance of an alternative scale to measure exertion rates.
For those taking Beta Blockers and with the consideration of incorporating exercise or any new lifestyle modification, it is important to start small and to consult a healthcare provider, who will always have your best interests at heart.
Photo By: Arsenik