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    Heart Failure and Beta-Blockers

    Drugs called beta-blockers perform four main tasks essential for people with heart failure:

    • Improve your heart's ability to relax
    • Decrease the production of harmful substances your body makes in response to heart failure
    • Slow your heart rate
    • Improve the heart's pumping ability over time

    If you have heart failure, you need beta-blockers -- even if you do not have symptoms. Beta-blockers are prescribed for patients with systolic heart failure and improve survival, even in people with severe symptoms.

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    There are several types of beta-blockers, but only three are approved by the FDA to treat heart failure:

     

    How Should I Take Them?

    They may be taken with meals, at bedtime, or in the morning. Food delays how your body absorbs beta-blockers, but they also may reduce side effects. Follow the directions on the label.

    Beta-blockers shouldn’t be used if you have very low blood pressure (hypotension) or a slow pulse (bradycardia) that may cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded. If you have severe lung congestion, your doctor will treat your congestion before prescribing a beta-blocker.

    While you are taking this beta-blocker, your doctor may tell you to take and record your pulse daily. He’ll tell you how rapid your pulse should be. If your pulse is slower than it should be, call your doctor about taking your beta-blocker that day.

    Never stop taking your medicine without speaking to your doctor first, even if you feel that it’s not working. When you start taking beta-blockers, your heart failure symptoms may become a bit worse while your heart adjusts to the medication. This is normal, but let your doctor or nurse know if you become extremely tired, gain more than 5 pounds, have trouble breathing, or have other signs of congestion or swelling. Once your heart adjusts, you will feel better.

    What Are the Side Effects?

    Dizziness or lightheadedness: This may be strongest when you get out of bed or get up from a chair. Get up more slowly. Call your doctor or nurse if these symptoms don't go away or are severe.

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