Beta blockers are medications commonly used for treating cardiac problems such as high blood pressure, chest pain, irregular heartbeat and heart failure. In the US, for example, one in five adults aged 60–79 is prescribed a beta blocker.
In a new study, we’ve found the use of beta blockers is associated with lower rates of violence. To explore why this might be, let’s start with some background.
Beta blockers work by blocking the stress hormones and neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenaline. These play an important role in our “fight or flight” response. In a stressful situation, adrenaline and noradrenaline mobilise the brain and body for action by increasing the amount of blood the heart pumps out.
Beta blockers prevent the effect of these hormones. This slows the heart rate down, lowers blood pressure, and also decreases tension. For this reason, beta blockers are sometimes used as treatment for common mental health and behavioural problems, like anxiety, depression and aggression.
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