29883 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Preventive Cardiology: Beta-blockers

    Preventive Cardiology logo

    Medication (name): Beta-blockers

    Common Names

    Examples of beta-blockers include:
    • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
    • Propranolol (Inderal)
    • Atenolol (Tenoretic)
    • Carvedilol (Coreg)
    • Nadolol (Corgard)
    • Labetalol (Trandate)
    • Acebutolol (Sectral)

    Current Uses


    Beta-blockers may be prescribed if you have:


    Beta-blockers may be prescribed to:
    • Reduce your risk of death from heart attack
    • Protect the heart if you have coronary artery disease
    • Reduce your risk of stroke
    • Protect the heart before surgery if you are at high risk of complications

    Mechanism for How It Works

    Beta-blockers block the effects of adrenaline on your body's beta-receptors. This slows the nerve impulses that travel through the heart. As a result, your heart does not have to work as hard because it needs less blood and oxygen. This decreases heart rate, and blood pressure. Beta-blockers also block the impulses that can cause an arrhythmia.
    Beta-blockers generally work by affecting the response to some nerve impulses. Your body has two main beta-receptors: beta 1 and beta 2. Some beta-blockers are selective, which means that they block beta 1 receptors more than they block beta 2 receptors. Beta 1 receptors are responsible for heart rate and the strength of your heartbeat. Nonselective beta-blockers block both beta 1 and beta 2 receptors. Beta 2 receptors are responsible for the function of your smooth muscles (muscles that control body functions but that you do not have voluntary control over).

    Side Effects

    Drug Interactions

    There are many types of medicines, herbs, and supplements that can affect how beta-blockers work. Since there are many different kinds of beta-blockers, drug interactions will vary depending on the specific medicine that you are prescribed. Before you begin taking a beta-blocker, talk to your doctor about all of the prescription medicines, over-the-counter products, and supplements that you are taking.

    Other Potential Concerns

    If you have certain conditions, you may not be able to take some types of beta-blockers. For example, if you have asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), certain beta-blockers may make your symptoms worse. This class of drugs may also affect diabetes, heart block, peripheral arterial disease, and other conditions. If you are pregnant or nursing, it is important to discuss the risks of taking a beta-blockers with your doctor.
    Talk to your doctor about your condition and any concerns that you have about taking beta-blockers.

    Side Effects

    Side effects include but are not limited to:
    • Drowsiness or fatigue
    • Cold hands and feet
    • Weakness or dizziness
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Loss of sex drive
    • Depression


    American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/

    US Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/


    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html/

    Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://ww2.heartandstroke.ca/splash/


    Acebutolol. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated October 22, 2012. Accessed December 13, 2012.

    Atenolol. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated November 6, 2012. Accessed December 13, 2012.

    Beta blockers. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated January 2, 2012. Accessed December 13, 2012.

    Cardiac Medications. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/PreventionTreatmentofHeartAttack/Cardiac-Medications%5FUCM%5F303937%5FArticle.jsp. Updated September 10, 2012. Accessed December 13, 2012.

    2/11/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Salpeter S, Ormiston T, Salpeter E. Cardioselective beta-blockers for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(1):CD003566.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.