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
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.
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Last reviewed: August 2020