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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Beta-Blockers for Heart Attack and Unstable Angina
The body often responds to the increased
stress of a
heart attack or
unstable angina by increasing the heart rate and blood
pressure. Beta-blockers slow the heart rate and reduce the heart's
In the hospital. Beta-blockers are given as soon as possible to a person having a heart attack. Beta-blockers reduce heart rate, blood
pressure, and the workload of the heart. When the heart does not have to work
as hard, it requires less oxygen. Beta-blockers are often used with other medicines to treat
a heart attack in progress.
After a heart attack. If a person has a heart attack, he or she typically will take beta-blockers.
Beta-blockers given within hours of
the start of a heart attack may lower the risk of early death after a heart
For people who have had a heart attack, beta-blockers lower
the risk of another heart attack and lower the risk of sudden death.footnote 1
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:
Call your doctor right away if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in
Check your pulse. Your doctor may ask you to take your pulse regularly to make sure your heart rate is not too slow. To learn how to take your pulse, see the topic Taking a Pulse (Heart Rate).
Diabetes. If you have diabetes, beta-blockers may cause higher blood sugar levels. Watch closely for symptoms of low blood sugar, because beta-blockers can hide your symptoms.
Grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice may affect how beta-blockers work. Ask your doctor if you need to make any changes to avoid problems.
For more information, see Grapefruit Juice and Medicines.
Cold weather. Beta-blockers may make you more sensitive to cold weather. Dress warmly and if needed, limit your time in cold weather.
Sun exposure. Beta-blockers may make you more sensitive to sunlight. You might get sunburnt easily or get a rash. To prevent problems, try wearing sun block, long sleeved shirts, and hats.
Allergic reactions. If you have food, medicine, or insect-sting allergies, beta-blockers may cause allergic reactions to be worse and harder to treat. If you have a severe allergic reaction, tell your doctor that you are taking a beta-blocker.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Complete the new medication information form (PDF)( What is a PDF document? ) to help you understand this medication.
Hass EE, et al. (2011). ST-segmented elevation myocardial infarction. In V Fuster et al., eds., Hurst's the Heart, 13th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1354–1385. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Current as ofJuly 22, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, ElectrophysiologyE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Current as of:
July 22, 2018
Medical Review:Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
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