Beta-blockers for coronary artery disease
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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
Side effects of beta-blockers may include:
- 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.
- 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: http://www.annals.org/cgi/reprint/141/7/562.pdf.
Last Updated: May 29, 2008