Beta blockers steady your heart rate and rhythm, lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of you having a heart attack. They can also help to control angina. If you have heart failure, beta blockers can help to stop it from getting worse.
Types of beta blockers:
- bisoprolol e.g. Bosvate
- carvedilol e.g. Auro-Carvedilol, Dilatrend, Dicarz
- metoprolol e.g. Betaloc CR, Myloc CR, Lopresor
- atenolol e.g. Noten
- sotalol e.g. Sotacor
- celiprolol e.g. Celol
- labetalol e.g. Hybloc
How do they do this?
Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of adrenaline (a hormone also called epinephrine). This prevents adrenaline from speeding up your heart and instead lowers your blood pressure and your heart rate.
What's the catch?
You may experience some unwanted side effects when taking beta blockers. You may feel feel tired and/or have cold feet and hands. Other effects might include nightmares, dizziness, skin rash, light-headedness or pins and needles. You may feel worse to start with but this usually goes away within a few weeks. If you have erection problems after starting this medication, talk to your doctor.
On very rare occasions, beta blockers can also cause fainting.
Although you may experience unwanted side effects for a short time when you first start on this medication, some people find that these improve over time. It can take a few months before you see the progress in your blood pressure readings. If you do experience unwanted side effects, talk to your doctor as they may be able to change your medication.
If you have asthma or other lung problems, you may need a special type of beta blocker called a cardio-selective beta blocker.
What checks do I need?
Your blood pressure (BP) and heart rate should be monitored by your GP/nurse at your visits, and more frequently if your dose changes.
What should I look out for?
You will need to start on a low dose and then gradually increase. This will be organised by your doctor. Any change of dose should be made slowly as your doctor recommends. It is important not to stop beta blockers suddenly or run out of medication.
Don't stop taking a beta blocker suddenly without first consulting a doctor. When you take a beta blocker regularly, the body becomes used to it. So, suddenly stopping taking it can sometimes cause problems such as palpitations, a rise in blood pressure, or a recurrence of angina pains. If you do need to stop taking a beta blocker then your doctor may advise a gradual reduction in dose.