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Treatment and Care for Heart Disease

Heart Disease and Beta-Blocker Therapy

Medically Reviewed byJames Beckerman, MD, FACC

Beta-blockers are one of the most widely prescribed classes of drugs to treathypertension(high blood pressure) and are a mainstay treatment ofcongestive heart failure. Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects ofepinephrine(adrenaline) and slowing thehearts rate, thereby decreasing the hearts demand for oxygen.

Long-term use of beta-blockers helps manage chronic heart failure.

Doctors often prescribe beta-blockers for these heart conditions:

If you haveasthmaor COPD, your doctor may not prescribe a beta-blocker because it may make your breathing symptoms worse. If you have heart failure and severelungcongestion, your doctor will treat your congestion before prescribing a beta-blocker.

You can take them in the morning, at meals, and atbedtime. When you take them with food, you may have fewer side effects because your body absorbs the drug slower.

Follow the label directions on how often to take it. The number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and how long you need to take themedicationwill depend on your condition. Older people typically take lower doses. Ask your doctor what to do if you miss a dose.

While youre taking a beta-blocker, you may need to check your pulse every day. If its slower than it should be, contact your doctor about taking your beta-blocker that day.

Never stop taking a beta-blocker without speaking to your doctor first, even if you feel that its not working. Sudden withdrawal can worsen angina and causeheart attacks.

Side effects ofbeta-blockersare common but usually mild. They include:

If these symptoms dont go away or become severe, contact your doctor.

You shouldnt take beta-blockers if you havelow blood pressureor a slow pulse, because bringing down your heart rate more can causedizzinessand lightheadedness.

People who take beta-blockers often have other prescriptions, too. Typically, those are for a diuretic (water pill) or other medications such asACE inhibitorsand angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), which lowerblood pressureand improveheart failure symptoms. If you have side effects and youre taking your heart drugs together, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. You may need to change when you take each medication, so theyre at different times.

Its important to tell your doctor about everything youre taking — including over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and supplements — because they might affect how your beta-blocker works.

Beta-blockers may affect a growingbabyby slowing its heart rate and lowering its blood sugar level and blood pressure. These drugs can also pass to an infant throughbreastmilk, causing low blood pressure, trouble breathing, and a slow heart rate.

You should tell your doctor if youre trying toget pregnantor you become pregnant while on beta-blockers or arebreastfeeding.

Certain medications have been used successfully to treat conditions including heart failure,irregular heartbeat,high blood pressure, andmigraines.

American Heart Association: Beta-blockers.

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