Drug Therapy: Beta Blockers

Beta blockers block the effect of adrenaline (the hormone norepinephrine) on the body's beta receptors. This slows down the nerve impulses that travel through the heart. As a result, the resting heart rate is lower, the heart does not have to work as hard and the heart requires less blood and oxygen. Beta blockers can also block the impulses that can cause an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).

This type of drug is generally prescribed for:

If these medications are prescribed, the doctor should be made aware of any other drug, vitamin, mineral or herbal supplement the patient is taking, especially:
  • Allergy shots
  • Antidepressants
  • Drugs for treating asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema
  • Insulin and other medicines used to treat diabetes
  • Medicines for high blood pressure, which may increase the effect of beta blockers
The doctor should be told if the patient has:
  • A slow heart rate (bradycardia) or heart block
  • Allergies to foods or dyes, which can be made worse by beta blockers
  • An overactive thyroid
  • Asthma, which beta blockers can make worse
  • Diabetes or hypoglycemia because beta blockers can cause the blood sugar levels to rise or hide the symptoms of low blood sugar
  • Heart disease or poor circulation in the hands or feet
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Symptoms of hay fever, chronic bronchitis or emphysema
Patients should avoid foods and beverages that have caffeine, antacids that have aluminum or over-the-counter cough and cold medications and antihistamines. Alcohol should also be avoided because it can decrease the effects of the beta blockers.

To learn more about these types of drugs and their side effects, click on the links below:

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