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Heart Failure Online Manual

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Beta blockers

Beta blockers are used for various heart conditions, including heart failure.

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Heart failure

Heart failure, also called congestive heart failure, is a condition in which the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

Learn more about heart failure in our health encyclopedia.

With heart failure, your body makes too many stress hormones. Over time, these hormones can be harmful to your heart.


Beta blockers are started at low doses and are increased gradually.

Beta blockers, like ACE inhibitors, block the effects of these hormones and reduce the workload of your heart. ACE inhibitors block different hormones than the beta blockers so you get the most benefit from being on both kinds of medicine.

Beta blockers can improve your heart function, decrease the need for hospital stays, and help you live longer. They may also be used for people who have high blood pressure, heart rhythm problems or who have had heart attacks.

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High blood pressure

Blood pressure measurements are the result of the force of the blood produced by the heart and the size and condition of the arteries. Many factors can affect blood pressure.

Learn more about high blood pressure in our health encyclopedia.

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Heart rhythm problems

Palpitations are heartbeat sensations that feel like your heart is pounding or racing.

Learn more about heart palpitations in our health encyclopedia.

Frequently used beta blockers include:

Before you take a beta blocker, tell your doctor if you have any of the following:

Side effects

When you start taking a beta blocker or when the dose is increased, you may feel more tired, dizzy and short of breath for a while. These symptoms should go away as your body adjusts to the medicine.

When to call your health care provider

If you have any of the problems below while taking a beta blocker, let your health care provider know:


If you have any of the side effects listed here, call your health care provider as soon as possible.

  • lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting
  • shortness of breath, wheezing or problems breathing
  • swelling of your feet or lower legs
  • weight gain
  • slow or irregular pulse
  • sexual problems.

Some things you can do to lessen the side effects of beta blockers are:

  • Eat a low-sodium diet.
  • Get up slowly from a lying or sitting position (to avoid dizziness or lightheadedness).



Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, third edition, ISBN 1-931876-20-7

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 07/19/2008

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts