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Beta Blockers

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Updated May 16, 2014

Doctor pouring pills from bottle into his hand
Jose Luis Pelaez/Iconica/Getty Images

Description:

Beta blockers are a common medication, available by prescription only, used to treat high blood pressure as well as other medical conditions such as irregular heart beat and angina.

How They Work:

Beta blockers work by changing how certain cells in the body respond to signals from central nervous system. Since these signals require a special sensor, called a Beta Receptor, in order to cause their effect, these medications are appropriately called beta blockers. These medications are used to treat heart and blood pressure problems because both the heart and blood vessels have very high numbers of beta receptors, so the medicine acts very effectively at these locations.

Common Names:

There are a variety of different beta blockers available, all of them work as outlined above. Some common beta blockers that doctors prescribe are:
  • Metoprolol
  • Atenolol
  • Propranolol
  • Sotalol
  • Timolol
Note that these are all generic names, and that various brand name versions may be available depending on location and pharmacy.

Side Effects:

All medicines carry some risk of side effects. While side effects with beta blockers are fairly uncommon, they have been reported. If you are taking a beta blocker and experience any side effects, notify your doctor. Some reported side effects:
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Swollen ankles
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Joint Pain

Notes:

Only you and your doctor can decide on a proper medication for treatment of high blood pressure. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are pregant and to supply the names of any other medicines and/or suppliments you are taking. Remember to include over the counter medicines like aspirin or Advil and herbal/natural suppliments. If you're eating or drinking anything that isn't food, it is always a good idea to tell your doctor.

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