Cheryl Mahmood, 68, has struggled with heart problems for most of her life. Five years ago, her health was deteriorating fast.
"My heart wasn't functioning at a full enough capacity," she said.
She was in heart failure and suffering from an irregular heart rate. Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum of Lenox Hill Hospital treated her with a beta blocker to improve her heart function and protect her from future heart attacks. But a new study is raising questions about beta blockers and whether they actually protect the heart.
"A new trial is questioning the use of beta blockers as being protective to the heart for people who've had heart attacks, evidence of heart disease or multiple risk factors," Steinbaum said.
Beta blockers reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow for heart patients. The new study-- published in the Journal of the American Medical Association-- found beta blockers did not lower the risk of cardiovascular death, heart attack or stroke.
Millions of patients use beta blockers after a heart attack and to treat symptoms including high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythm. Doctors say they need to see more research before they consider changing that practice.
"Personally, I will not change my practice as we know beta blockers are extremely useful in patients with heart failure, chest pain or angina," Steinbaum said.
Mahmood says for her, the medication has made a world of difference.
"I don't know how to explain how much better I felt because it's hard to even remember when I felt that bad," she said.
Her heart function has improved, she's stronger and she worries less about her health.
Beta blockers do have side effects; they can affect cholesterol and trigger asthma attacks.
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