Keeping heart rate under control with beta blockers

A beta blocker is a type of medication used to slow down the heart rate. It is often prescribed for people who have had a heart attack or have arrhythmia or other cardiac conditions. Sometimes it is used for people with high blood pressure whose condition has not responded to other medications.

How beta blockers work to lower blood pressure

Beta blockers, also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, essentially “block” the effects of the sympathetic nervous system on the heart. Specifically, the medication blocks epinephrine (adrenalin), a hormone that triggers a process that increases the force and rate of the heart rate as it contracts.

By taking a beta blocker and slowing down your heart rate, your heart beats with less force and blood pressure is reduced, while also improving blood flow by opening up the blood vessels.

Who takes beta blockers and why

Beta blockers can be helpful for people who have had a previous heart attack and may also help with conditions such as:

This type of medication may have some side effects such as fatigue, cold hands and feet, and weight gain. It may also affect signs of low blood sugar in people with diabetes so you must be carefully monitored if you are diabetic and taking beta blockers. This drug can also affect your cholesterol levels, causing a slight decrease in “good” cholesterol and an increase in triglycerides.

Beta blockers are generally not recommended for people with asthma as the medication may trigger an asthma attack.

Other possible concerns include drug interactions and any kind of surgical procedures (including dental). If you are taking or will be taking beta blockers, be sure to talk with your doctor about any contraindications and other concerns you might have.

To schedule an appointment with a Lankenau Heart Institute specialist, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.