Beta blockers

Beta blocking medicines block the effects of stress hormones and reduce the workload of your heart. ACE inhibitors and beta blockers work differently so you get the most benefit from being on both medicines.

Beta blockers can improve how your heart works, decrease the need for hospital stays, and help you live longer. They are used to treat heart failure, high blood pressure, heart rhythm problems or if you have had a heart attack.

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

Common beta blockers used for heart failure include:

  • carvedilol (Coreg®)
  • metoprolol (Lopressor®,Toprol XL®)
  • bisoprolol (Zebeta®).

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

  • asthma
  • bronchitis
  • emphysema or other lung problems
  • diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • thyroid problems

Side effects

When you start taking a beta blocker or when the dose is increased, you may feel tired, dizzy, short of breath or have problems with vigorous exercise (such as running or biking, aerobics, or weightlifting).

Get up slowly from a lying or sitting position to avoid feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

When to call your health care provider

If any of these side effects won’t go away or if they bother you, call your health care provider:

  • 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

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Heart Failure, fifth edition, 1-931876-31-2
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/10/2015