WHAT ARE BETA BLOCKERS?
Beta blockers are a class of medicines that can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure. Atenolol, bisoprolol, carvedilol, metoprolol, nadolol, propranolol, and timolol are generic names for common beta blockers. Which one is best for you depends on your condition and health.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Beta blockers block the effects of the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine makes the heart beat faster. By blocking epinephrine, beta blockers help the heart beat more slowly and with slightly less force. This means that the heart does not have to work as hard. Some beta blockers also relax and open up blood vessels, which helps blood flow more easily through the blood vessels.
Beta blockers have few serious side effects and may be used alone or combined with other medicines.
WHEN ARE THEY USED?
Beta blockers are used for many health problems. For example, they may be used to:
· Treat high blood pressure.
· Lower your risk of heart disease.
· Treat angina (chest pain) caused by heart disease.
· Lower your risk of having another heart attack.
· Treat abnormal heart rhythms.
· Treat heart failure caused by a weakened heart muscle.
· Prevent migraine headaches.
· Treat glaucoma (as eyedrops).
· Treat certain types of tremors.
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 healthcare provider will decide which type and dosage of beta blocker are right for you.
You may start with a low dose and slowly increase it over time. It may take a few months for your body to adjust to this medicine and get the full effect. After your body adjusts, you will feel better and you may have a lower risk of a heart attack or other heart problems or sudden death. Do not suddenly stop taking this medicine without your healthcare provider’s approval. Some conditions can get worse if you suddenly stop taking this medicine.
WHAT SHOULD I WATCH OUT FOR WHILE TAKING THIS MEDICINE?
Your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and heart rate regularly while you are taking this medicine.
If you need emergency care, surgery, or dental work, tell the healthcare provider or dentist you are taking this medicine.
Most of the side effects of this medicine 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 some beta blockers.
· If you are a diabetic, your blood sugar levels and your response to insulin may change.
· If you have a blood vessel condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon, your Raynaud’s symptoms may get worse.
· Heart disease and angina may get worse if you stop taking beta blockers suddenly.
· Sometimes beta blockers may make heart failure worse. On the other hand, some people with heart failure feel much better with the medicine.
Other possible side effects are:
· You may have cold hands or feet while taking this medicine.
· Some people complain of a loss of sexual desire.
· Beta blockers sometimes cause tiredness, depression, and nightmares.
· Sometimes beta blockers cause the heart to beat too slowly.
Report these side effects to your healthcare provider right away:
· swelling in your legs or ankles
· cold hands and feet
· trouble breathing or wheezing
· severe tiredness
· dizziness or fainting spells
· frequent nightmares.
Not all beta blockers have the same side effects. If you have new symptoms while taking this medicine, tell your healthcare provider right away.