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Beta-blockers


What is this medication?

They’re officially called beta-adrenergic blocking agents. But most people call them beta-blockers.

Beta-blockers include:

  • Acebutolol (Sectral®)
  • Atenolol (Tenormin®)
  • Bisoprolol (Monocor®)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg®)
  • Labetalol (Trandate®)
  • Metoprolol (Lopressor®, Betaloc®)
  • Nadolol (Corgard®)
  • Pindolol (Viskazide®)
  • Propranolol (Inderal®)
  • Timolol (Blocadren®)

Be aware:

  • Generic names are listed first.
  • Canadian brand names are in brackets.
  • This list doesn’t include every brand name.
  • If your prescription isn’t listed, your pharmacist is the best source for more information.
What does it do?

Beta-blockers make your heart work less hard. This lowers your heart rate (pulse) and blood pressures. If your heart is weakened, certain beta-blockers can protect your heart and help it get stronger.

Key facts about beta-blockers:

  • Lower your heart rate.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • If your heart has been weakened, may protect it and help it get stronger.

Be aware:  If you take a beta-blocker, keep a written log of your heart rate and blood pressure.

  • Track your heart rate by taking your pulse daily.
  • Write down your blood pressure numbers every time you take your blood pressure. It could be from your healthcare provider, the automated blood pressure machine at the drugstore, or your home blood pressure monitor.
How do I take it?

Take your beta-blocker exactly as prescribed.

  • Try to take it at the same time(s) every day.
  • If you take it more than once each day, space it out through the day.
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember unless it’s almost time for the next dose.
  • Never double-up your dose or take extra medication to make up for the missed dose.
  • Do not stop taking it unless directed by your healthcare provider.
Are there any interactions?

Some medications can stop your heart medicine from working properly. They may even cause other health problems.

Tell your healthcare provider and pharmacist about all the medications you are taking. These include:

  • Prescriptions
  • Non-prescription drugs
  • Inhalers
  • Creams or ointments
  • Over-the-counter or natural health products
  • Alternative therapies
  • Vitamins, minerals or supplements
  • Herbal remedies
  • Homeopathic medicines
  • Traditional remedies, such as Chinese medicines
Are there any side effects?

Beta-blockers can cause some side effects.

  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling faint.
    • Beta-blockers will slow your heart rate (pulse) and lower your blood pressure.
    • If you are dizzy or feel like you might faint, sit or lie down right away.
    • Get up slowly to give your blood vessels time to adjust.
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Unusual swelling of the feet and ankles
  • Wheezing, trouble breathing
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Decreased sexual ability.

Be aware: If you have diabetes and take a beta-blocker, watch your blood sugars closely. It may be harder to notice the effects of low blood sugar:

  • Trembling
  • Fast heart rate (pulse)

Beta-blockers don’t affect dizziness or sweating caused by low blood sugar.

If you have side effects, talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider.

Lifestyle changes that can also help

There are two ways to control and manage your heart health: medication and lifestyle.

Medication can help you control heart disease and high blood pressure, but it cannot cure it.

A healthy lifestyle can help you keep medication to a minimum.

Visit heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy. Learn how to keep your heart healthy with current information and advice from Heart and Stroke experts.

Talk to your healthcare provider about the most beneficial lifestyle goals for you.

Resources

Your healthcare provider or pharmacist are your best sources of information. You can also learn more about medications at any of these trusted sites.

Health Canada - Drugs and Health Products
Provides health and medical information for Canadians to maintain and improve their health.

Learn more about:

Your ministry of health also offers health resources in your province or territory. For example, Ontario’s MedsCheck program provides free pharmacist consultations. And British Columbia’s Senior Healthcare web page provides information about important health programs.