What exactly are beta blockers?



They are inexpensive, well tolerated drugs and save many lives by lowering blood pressure, protecting against recurrent heart attacks and helping people with heart failure to live longer.

They are used to treat conditions including angina, heart failure and some heart rhythm disorders, and after a heart attack.

They are also sometimes prescribed for glaucoma, anxiety and migraines.

Common beta blockers include:

  • atenolol (brand names include Tenormin)
  • bisoprolol (brand names include Cardicor, Emcor)
  • carvedilol
  • esmolol
  • metoprolol (brand names include Betaloc, Lopresor)
  • nebivolol (brand names include Nebilet)
  • propranolol (brand names include Inderal)

How do they work?

Beta blockers, also called beta adrenergic blocking agents, block the release of the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline in certain parts of the body. This results in a slowing of the heart rate and reduces the force at which blood is pumped around your body.

Beta blockers can also block your kidneys from producing a hormone called angiotensin II. This results in lowering your blood pressure.

Why would I be prescribed this?

By slowing the heart rate, beta blockers reduce the oxygen demand of the heart and reduce the frequency of angina attacks

Beta blockers are widely prescribed for people with heart disease in these ways:

Treatment of angina

By slowing the heart rate, beta blockers reduce the oxygen demand of the heart and reduce the frequency of angina attacks. Guidelines recommend beta blockers as first-line treatment in patients with angina either on their own or in combination with a calcium channel blocker.

Treatment of heart failure

Beta blockers improve life expectancy in people with heart failure caused by impaired contraction of the left ventricle (the main pump chamber of the heart). Guidelines recommend that all patients with left ventricular impairment should take a beta blocker – regardless of symptom severity – as part of a treatment plan that also includes angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, for example ramipril, and, in many cases, an aldosterone inhibitor.

Treatment of some heart rhythm disorders

Beta blockers are used to control the irregular heart rhythm in people with atrial fibrillation (AF). By slowing the heart rate, the symptoms caused by AF, particularly palpitations and fatigue, are often improved.

Protection against recurrent heart attacks

In people who have had a heart attack, beta blockers help reduce the risk of further ones. Guidelines recommend that all patients who have had a heart attack should be prescribed a beta blocker before hospital discharge as part of a package of risk reduction measures. Treatment should usually continue for life.

Control of blood pressure

Beta blockers are commonly used to help lower blood pressure, usually as a part of a treatment plan that may include an ACE inhibitor (for example, ramipril) and/or a calcium channel blocker (for example, amlodipine).


Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors

ACE inhibitors are commonly prescribed to treat high blood pressure, heart problems and other conditions. Find out how they work and their potential side effects.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors help relax your veins and arteries to lower your blood pressure. ACE inhibitors prevent an enzyme in your body from producing angiotensin II, a substance that narrows your blood vessels. This narrowing can cause high blood pressure and force your heart to work harder. Angiotensin II also releases hormones that raise your blood pressure.

Examples of ACE inhibitors

Many ACE inhibitors are available. The best one for you depends on your health and other factors. For example, people with chronic kidney disease may benefit from having an ACE inhibitor as one of their medications.

Examples of ACE inhibitors include:

Benazepril (Lotensin)


Enalapril (Vasotec)


Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)



Quinapril (Accupril)

Ramipril (Altace)


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