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Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2007 Nov;36(11):962-4.

Should beta-blockers still be used as initial antihypertensive agents in uncomplicated hypertension?

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Diabetes Care Centre, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore.


Beta-blockers have long being used as first-line therapy for hypertension as their use had resulted in a reduction in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in controlled clinical trials. A recent meta-analysis comparing beta-blockers to all other anti-hypertensive drugs taken together has found that stroke reduction was sub-optimal. Specifically, atenolol was associated with a 26% higher risk of stroke compared with other drugs. Several reasons may explain the less favourable outcomes with beta-blocker therapy. These include some adverse metabolic abnormalities such as dyslipidaemia and new-onset diabetes, and less effective reduction of central aortic compared with brachial blood pressure. Newer beta-blockers such as carvedilol or nebivolol are better tolerated. These beta-blockers have a vasodilating effect, which may beneficially affect systolic blood pressure in the aorta. Their long-term cardiovascular outcome in hypertension is still not known. Further studies would be required to show that stroke is adequately reduced by these newer beta-blockers. In conclusion, beta-blockers should not be the first drugs of choice in the management of uncomplicated hypertension. They may be used in addition to other antihypertensive agents to achieve blood pressure goals. However, in patients with angina pectoris, a previous myocardial infarction, heart failure and certain dysrhythmias, beta-blockers still play an important role.

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