Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 697,000 Americans die each year of heart disease — one death every 34 seconds.
As Healthline explains, heart disease is actually an umbrella term for a number of conditions. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease and is caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries that supply the heart. Atherosclerosis is a more general term that describes this buildup and hardening of the arteries elsewhere in the body. Cardiomyopathy is another form of heart disease, in which the heart becomes weak and unable to function properly. Other forms of heart disease include congenital heart defects, arrhythmias, and infections. According to the CDC, high blood pressure (hypertension) is a major risk factor for heart disease. An estimated 116 million Americans — roughly 47% of U.S. adults — have hypertension or are taking a medication (such as beta blockers) for hypertension. Blood pressure consists of two readings, measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The first is systolic blood pressure, the pressure inside the arteries when the heart is contracting. The second is diastolic pressure, the pressure inside the arteries while the heart is relaxed in between beats. Individuals with blood pressure of 130/80 or higher have hypertension.
While medication is usually recommended for those with heart disease, some foods and supplements may work to naturally reduce blood pressure, correct arrhythmias, and improve heart health.
What are beta blockers?
There are a variety of prescription medications that can help manage high blood pressure through different mechanisms. As the American Heart Association explains, beta blockers, either alone or combined with diuretics or alpha-blockers, are among the most commonly prescribed. Others include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, central agonists, and peripheral adrenergic inhibitors. Beta blockers are also prescribed for other heart conditions, including irregular heartbeat, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and heart attack (via the Cleveland Clinic).
WebMD notes that the most commonly prescribed beta blockers include acebutolol (Sectral), bisoprolol (Zebeta), carteolol (Cartrol), labetalol (Normodyne), metoprolol (Lopressor), nebivolol (Bystolic), and penbutolol (Levatol). Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline, one of the "fight-or-flight" hormones. This slows the heart and causes it to contract with less force. It also helps dilate blood vessels so that blood flows more easily. Common side effects while on beta blockers include low energy, dizziness, weight gain, and cold hands and feet. More serious but less common side effects include insomnia, depression, swelling in the hands or feet, and difficulty breathing. Beta blockers can also interact negatively with a variety of medications, including antidepressants, allergy shots, diabetes medications, and other blood pressure or heart medications. They’re also generally not prescribed for people with asthma, COPD, or other conditions that affect breathing. They may not work as well for Black patients or older individuals, and must be used with caution in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
In a 2011 study conducted on rodents and published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, researchers found that honey reduced the systolic blood pressure of diabetic rats. The study authors credited honey’s antioxidant content for this drop in blood pressure. The quantity and variety of antioxidants in any individual honey depend on which flowers the bees fed from beforehand. As a 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded, "the antioxidant capacity of honey appeared to be a result of the combined activity of a wide range of compounds including phenolics, peptides, organic acids, enzymes, Maillard reaction products, and possibly other minor components."
Another study, published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in 2012 and also conducted on diabetic rats, concluded that honey lowers blood pressure by reducing oxidative stress in the kidneys. These organs regulate blood pressure, so the inflammation and tissue damage caused by oxidative stress can send blood pressure skyrocketing.
Using honey to prevent and treat health problems is nothing new. As a 2011 paper published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine notes, honey has been used for its healing properties for thousands of years. Its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties made it an invaluable tool for treating infections and inflammation before the age of antibiotics and NSAIDs, and modern medicine is "rediscovering" just how useful honey can be.