Beta-Blockers: Care Instructions

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The heart


Beta-blockers are used to lower blood pressure, treat heart failure and heart rhythm problems, and relieve angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure. And they may decrease the chance of a second heart attack in someone who has already had a heart attack. They also slow the heart rate and reduce strain on the heart muscle and blood vessels.

Most people do not have any side effects from beta-blockers. In rare cases, they can make asthma worse or make you feel tired. In some people, heart rate or blood pressure can drop too low. You may feel lightheaded. This may happen if you stand up quickly. It usually gets better with time.

Before you start to take this medicine, make sure your doctor knows if you have severe asthma or frequent asthma attacks.

Examples include:

  • Atenolol (Tenormin).
  • Carvedilol (Coreg).
  • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol).
  • Propranolol (Inderal).

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Do not suddenly stop taking a beta-blocker. This can cause a heart attack or dangerous heart rhythm.
  • Always tell your doctor if you think you are having a side effect from your medicine. If side effects are a problem with one medicine, you can try a different one.
  • Check with your doctor before you use any over-the-counter medicines. Beta-blockers can interact with other medicines. Make sure your doctor knows all of the medicines, vitamins, herbal products, and supplements you take.
  • If you have diabetes, watch closely for symptoms of low blood sugar. Beta-blockers can hide your symptoms.
  • If you have asthma, tell your doctor if you feel more short of breath. Beta-blockers can make your symptoms worse.
  • Your doctor may ask you to take your pulse regularly to make sure your heart rate is not too slow.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have any problems with your medicine.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.