Cardiac glycosides:

# Which of the following is called cardiac glycosides?
A. Digitalin
B. Belladonna
C. Reserpine
D. Colchicum

Cardiac glycosides are a class of organic compounds that increase the output force of the heart and increase its rate of contractions by acting on the cellular sodium-potassium ATPase pump. Their beneficial medical uses are as treatments for congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmias; however, their relative toxicity prevents them from being widely used.

Cardiac glycosides can be more specifically categorized based on the plant they are derived from, as in the following list. For example, cardenolides have been primarily derived from the foxglove plants Digitalis purpurea and Digitalis lanata, while bufadienolides have been derived from the venom of the cane toad Bufo marinus, from which they receive the “bufo” portion of their name.

Cardiac glycosides have long served as the main medical treatment to congestive heart failure and cardiac arrhythmia, due to their effects of increasing the force of muscle contraction while reducing heart rate. Heart failure is characterized by an inability to pump enough blood to support the body, possibly due to a decrease in the volume of the blood or its contractile force. Treatments for the condition thus focus on lowering blood pressure, so that the heart does not have to exert as much force to pump the blood, or directly increasing the heart's contractile force, so that the heart can overcome the higher blood pressure. Cardiac glycosides, such as the commonly used digoxin and digitoxin, deal with the latter, due to their positive inotropic activity. On the other hand, cardiac arrhythmia are changes in heart rate, whether faster (tachycardia) or slower (bradycardia). Medicinal treatments for this condition work primarily to counteract tachycardia or atrial fibrillation by slowing down heart rate, as done by cardiac glycosides.

Nevertheless, due to questions of toxicity and dosage, cardiac glycosides have been replaced with synthetic drugs such as ACE inhibitors and beta blockers and are no longer used as the primary medical treatment for such conditions. Depending on the severity of the condition, though, they may still be used in conjunction with other treatments.

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