Biology and You

You and Your Cells

What are beta blockers?

During the shorter days of winter, the vitamin D synthesis that occurs in people who live in higher latitudes is limited to small areas of skin exposed to sunlight. Increased melanin pigmentation, present in people native to lower latitudes, reduces the production of vitamin D. Susceptibility to vitamin D deficiency is increased in these populations by the traditional clothing of many cultural groups native to low latitudes, which attempts to cover the body completely to protect the skin from overexposure to UV radiation. Most clothing effectively absorbs irradiation produced by ultraviolet B rays. The dose of ultraviolet light required to stimulate skin synthesis of vitamin D is about six times higher in African-Americans than in people of European descent. The presence of darker pigmentation and/or veiling may significantly impair sun-derived vitamin D production, even in sunny regions like Australia.

Beta blockers—also called beta-adrenergic blocking agents—are medications that reduce blood pressure by blocking the effects of a hormone called epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. When you take beta blockers, the heart beats more slowly and with less force, thus reducing your blood pressure; they also help blood vessels open up to improve blood flow. An example of a beta blocker is propranolol, which is used to treat high blood pressure and angina, and works by protecting the heart against sudden surges of stress hormones like adrenaline.


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