What is beta blockers?

Beta-blockers: Overview

Beta-blockers are used to lower blood pressure and treat heart failure and heart rhythm problems. They're also used to relieve angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure. And they may decrease the chance of a second heart attack in people who already had a heart attack. They also slow the heart rate. And they reduce strain on the heart muscle and blood vessels.

They are also used for other health problems that aren't related to the heart. These include migraine headaches and tremors.

Before you start to take this medicine, make sure your doctor knows if you have severe asthma or frequent asthma attacks. Beta-blockers can make asthma symptoms worse.

Beta-blocker medicines

Beta-blocker medicines slow the heart rate and decrease how forcefully the heart contracts, reducing the amount of oxygen the heart needs to work. Beta-blockers are often used to treat heart conditions, including high blood pressure, heart failure, and fast or irregular heart rates.

Beta-blockers are also used for other health problems such as migraine headaches and glaucoma.

What are some examples of beta-blockers?

Here are some examples of beta-blockers. For each item in the list, the generic name is first, followed by any brand names.

  • atenolol (Tenormin)
  • carvedilol (Coreg)
  • metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol)
  • propranolol (Inderal)

This is not a complete list of beta-blockers.

How can you safely take beta-blockers?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Do not suddenly stop taking a beta-blocker. This can cause a heart attack or dangerous heart rhythm.
  • Always tell your doctor if you think you are having a side effect from your medicine. If side effects are a problem with one medicine, you can try a different one.
  • Check with your doctor before you use any over-the-counter medicines. Beta-blockers can interact with other medicines. Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines, vitamins, herbal products, and supplements you take.
  • If you have diabetes, watch closely for symptoms of low blood sugar. Beta-blockers can hide your symptoms.
  • If you have asthma, tell your doctor if you feel more short of breath. Beta-blockers can make your symptoms worse.
  • Your doctor may ask you to take your pulse regularly to make sure your heart rate is not too slow.

Beta-Blockers: Helping Your Heart Relax

What are some cautions about beta-blockers?

Some cautions are:

  • If you have diabetes, watch closely for symptoms of low blood sugar. Beta-blockers can hide your symptoms.
  • If you have asthma, beta-blockers can make wheezing or shortness of breath worse.
  • Do not suddenly stop taking a beta-blocker. This can cause high blood pressure, a heart attack, or a dangerous heart rhythm.
  • Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Check with your doctor or pharmacist before you use any other medicines. This includes ones you buy over the counter. Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines, vitamins, herbal products, and supplements you take. Taking some medicines together can cause problems.

After a Heart Attack: Taking Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have any problems with your medicine.

What are the side effects of beta-blockers?

Beta-blockers can make some people feel tired, dizzy, or lightheaded. They can also make asthma worse. In some people, heart rate or blood pressure can drop too low. If the medicine is stopped suddenly, high blood pressure, a heart attack, or dangerous heart rhythm may occur.

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