Beta-blockers for coronary artery disease


Generic Name Brand Name
acebutolol Sectral
atenolol Tenormin
carvedilol Coreg
labetalol Trandate
metoprolol Lopressor, Toprol
nadolol Corgard
penbutolol Levatol
propranolol Inderal

How It Works

Beta-blockers reduce the workload on the heart by slowing the heart rate. A more rapid heart rate caused by exertion and excitement increases the workload on the heart.

Why It Is Used

Beta-blockers lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce the workload on the heart. This in turn can help relieve or prevent chest pain (angina). Beta-blockers are often used with other medications to treat a heart attack in progress.

Beta-blockers are also taken after a heart attack for a long time—maybe for the rest of your life—to lower the risk of sudden death.

How Well It Works

Beta-blockers can reduce the severity and frequency of angina. If you are at an increased risk for a heart attack and sudden death, beta-blockers can reduce this risk; you are less likely to have another heart attack if you are taking a beta-blocker.1

Beta-blockers are the first medications considered for use in people who have coronary artery disease and stable angina.1 They also may help control unstable angina symptoms in some people.

Side Effects

Side effects of beta-blockers may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Erection problems (impotence).
  • Decreased blood flow to the extremities, causing them to feel cold; increased leg pain brought on by exertion (intermittent claudication).
  • In people who have diabetes, beta-blockers can cover up warning signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as change in pulse rate, and increase the risk of low blood sugar episodes.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Beta-blockers may worsen other medical conditions, such as asthma, heart failure, diabetes, and certain heart arrhythmias. You may have to stop taking beta-blockers if side effects develop and persist.

Because beta-blockers can make you feel tired, they may add to feelings of depression.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Snow V, et al. (2004). Primary care management of chronic stable angina and asymptomatic suspected or known coronary artery disease: A clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141(7): 562–567. Also available online:

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