Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Beta blockers

2-minute read

What are beta blockers?

Beta blockers are a type of medication that makes the heart beat more slowly to lower blood pressure.

Beta blockers are usually not prescribed in the first instance for people who only have high blood pressure (hypertension) but can be useful for some people with high blood pressure and other conditions, including ischaemic heart disease.

How do beta blockers work?

Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone adrenaline. They make your heart beat slower and relax the blood vessels, which, in turn, reduces blood pressure. Beta blockers can also help the heart to beat more regularly.

What are beta-blockers used for?

Beta blockers can be useful when combined with other high blood pressure medications, especially if other heart conditions are present, such as:

  • angina — pain in the chest caused by too little blood and oxygen getting to the heart
  • arrhythmia — irregular or fast heart beat or rhythm
  • after a heart attack

Apart from treating hypertension and heart conditions, beta blockers can be used to prevent or treat other conditions, such as migraine, glaucoma, anxiety and some types of tremor.

What are the potential risks of beta blockers?

Beta blockers should be avoided or used with caution for people with asthma because they can trigger asthma attacks and increase resistance to asthma drugs. Some types of beta-blockers may be safer than others for people with asthma.

Beta blockers appear to be safe in people with chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder (COPD), particularly beta-1 selective beta blockers.

If you have diabetes, you may have to check your blood sugar more regularly since beta blockers can sometimes mask the signs of low glucose, such as rapid heartbeat.

Do not stop taking beta blockers too abruptly because that may increase your risk of a heart attack or another heart problem. Always talk to your doctor before stopping treatment with a beta blocker.

It’s important to discuss the potential side effects of beta blockers with your doctor. You can also check the consumer medical information that contains information on the safe and effective use of beta blockers.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Beta-blockers for autistic children | Raising Children Network

Beta-blockers are sometimes prescribed to autistic people to reduce feelings of anxiety. Some research shows positive effects, but more research is needed.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Congestive heart failure (CHF) - Better Health Channel

Congestive heart failure is present when the heart cannot pump enough blood to satisfy the needs of the body.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Coronary heart disease

The underlying cause of coronary heart disease is a slow build up of fatty deposits on the inner wall of the blood vessels that supply the heart muscle with blood (the coronary arteries).

Read more on WA Health website

Heart murmurs: symptoms, risk factors and treatments - MyDr.com.au

Heart murmurs are heard between heartbeats if the blood flow through the heart becomes turbulent.

Read more on myDr website

Medication after a heart attack | Heart Foundation

Medication after a heart attack | Heart Foundation

Read more on Heart Foundation website

High blood pressure treatments - MyDr.com.au

If you have high blood pressure your doctor may recommend lifestyle measures, such as diet and exercise, and possibly also medicines to control your blood pressure. Find out about the different options.

Read more on myDr website

Heart attack - MyDr.com.au

A heart attack (myocardial infarction) means the blood supply to part of the heart muscle has become blocked. Early treatment can reduce muscle damage.

Read more on myDr website

Congestive heart failure - Lab Tests Online AU

Congestive heart failure is when the heart can no longer pump blood quickly enough, leading to fluid build up in the liver, lungs, hands and feet.

Read more on Lab Tests Online AU website

What is heart failure | The Heart Foundation

Heart failure occurs when your heart muscle doesn’t pump blood to the rest of your body the way it should. Learn about the causes and treatments.

Read more on Heart Foundation website

Heart failure overview - MyDr.com.au

Heart failure is when your heart can't effectively pump blood around your body, but it doesn’t mean your heart is about to stop or fail completely - you can live with heart failure for many years.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo