Beta-Blockers for High Blood Pressure

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on May 15, 2023
3 min read

Beta-blockers are drugs that block the effects of adrenaline, the hormone that triggers your body's fight-or-flight response when you're stressed. This slows your heart rate and eases up on the force your heart squeezes with. Your blood pressure goes down because your heart isn't working so hard. These medicines can also relax blood vessels so the blood flows better.

Beta-blockers include:

Your doctor will probably want you to try another medicine to control your blood pressure before they prescribe a beta-blocker. You may need to take other kinds of medicine for your high blood pressure, too.

You might have to check your pulse daily. When it's slower than it should be, find out from your doctor if you should take your medication that day.

Take your medicine regularly with meals to keep the level steady so it works consistently.

Beta-blockers may not work right when you take them while you're also using another drug. Or they could change how another medicine works. To avoid problems, let your doctor know about any medications -- prescription or over-the-counter -- or supplements that you're taking, especially:

Avoid products with caffeine and alcohol. Don't take cold medicines, antihistamines, or antacids that have aluminum in them.

If you're going to have surgery of any kind (including dental procedures), make sure the doctor knows you're taking a beta-blocker.

Beta-blockers may not work as well for older people and for African-Americans.

Doctors don't usually prescribe them for people with asthma, COPD, or breathing trouble or for those with very low blood pressure (hypotension), a type of heart rhythm problem called a heart block, or a slow pulse (bradycardia). Beta-blockers can make symptoms of these conditions worse.

These drugs can hide signs of low blood sugar. You'll have to check your blood sugar more often when you have diabetes.

They may not be safe for women who are planning a pregnancy, pregnant, or breastfeeding. Tell your doctor right away if you get pregnant while you're taking a beta-blocker.

When you're taking a beta blocker, you may:

You could also have:

Let your doctor know if any of these bother you a lot. They may change your dose or switch you to a different medicine.

A beta-blocker might raise your triglycerides and lower your "good" HDL cholesterol a bit for a little while.

Don't stop taking your beta blocker unless your doctor says it's OK. That could raise your chance of a heart attack or other heart problems.