HEART RHYTHM INSTITUTE OF OKLAHOMA James A. Coman, MD 6465 S Yale Ave Suite 202 Tulsa, Oklahoma 74136 918.502.2100 heartrhythminstitute.com Beta Blockers What are beta blockers?
Beta blockers are a class of drugs that can reduce your heart rate, blood pressure, and the amount of blood your heart pumps. Beta blockers can block the effects of the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Examples of beta blockers are atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Toprol-XL), and propranolol (Inderal).
When are beta blockers used?
Beta blockers are used to treat high blood pressure, reduce your risk of coronary artery disease, and correct abnormal heart rhythms. They have few serious side effects. Beta blockers are often the only drugs needed to treat high blood pressure. An extra benefit is that beta blockers work well when combined with other drugs for blood pressure treatment.
Beta blockers are used to treat angina (chest pain) caused by coronary heart disease. Angina occurs when there is not enough oxygen-carrying blood to supply the heart muscle. If your coronary arteries are blocked, you can't get the proper amount of blood to your heart muscle. Beta blockers slow the heart rate and slightly decrease the strength of heart muscle contraction (squeezing). These effects reduce your heart muscle's need for oxygen and reduce or prevent angina.
Beta blockers are used to correct abnormal heart rhythms. Your symptoms may range from an occasional irregular heartbeat to spells of a very fast heart rate. Beta blockers can make your heart rhythm regular and prevent uncomfortable symptoms due to an irregular or fast heart rate.
If you have heart failure caused by a weakened heart muscle, you may benefit from treatment with beta blockers. Because beta blockers can actually worsen heart failure when given quickly in high doses, your health care provider will start at a very low dose and gradually increase the dose over a few weeks.
Beta blockers may also help prevent migraine headaches.
There are many different types of beta blockers. Each one is used by the body in a slightly different way. Because of the differences, your health care provider will decide which type and dosage of beta blocker are right for you.
When should I call my health care provider?
Most of the side effects are minor, but people with some conditions need to use beta blockers with caution. For example, if you have chronic lung disease or asthma, you may have more lung problems when taking beta blockers. If you are a diabetic, your blood sugar levels and response to insulin may change.
Some people complain of cold hands or feet while on the drugs. Others with a blood vessel condition called Raynaud's phenomenon may become worse. Some people complain of a loss of sexual desire. Coronary heart
disease and angina may become worse if you stop taking beta blockers suddenly. Beta blockers sometimes cause fatigue and nightmares. Sometimes, they cause the heartbeat to become too slow.
Beta blockers may make some people with heart failure worse. On the other hand, some people with severe heart failure feel much better with the medicine.
Report these side effects to your health care provider right away:
swelling in your legs or ankles cold hands and feet shortness of breath or wheezing severe fatigue fainting spells frequent nightmares.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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Copyright 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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