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Why Should I Take a Beta-Blocker After a Heart Attack?

Beta-blockers prevent death in heart attack survivors. But like any other medication, there may be side effects. Learn more about beta-blocker treatment.

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The days and weeks following a heart attack bring relief and new challenges for survivors. Along with starting fresh habits like healthy eating and exercising, most heart attack survivors also have to take new medications.

What are beta-blockers?

Beta-blockers slow the heart rate and ease the workload on the heart. These medications work by blocking the effects of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) on the body. They are used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems, as well as some non-cardiovascular conditions such as glaucoma and migraine.

The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology Foundation recommends use of beta blockers for most patients who have had a heart attack. The current clinical guidelines recommend beta-blockers for people who have had heart attacks within the last three years.

What are the benefits?

  • There is good evidence that beta-blockers cut the risk of death following a heart attack and lower the chance of having another heart attack.
  • Beta-blockers can treat several cardiovascular conditions. Those include high blood pressure, irregular or fast heart rate and chest pain.

What else do I need to know about beta-blockers?

Beta-blockers can affect other medical conditions. Be especially careful if you have:

  • Diabetes. Beta-blockers may hide the effect of low blood sugar. If you have diabetes, you may need to check your blood sugar levels more frequently.
  • Asthma. Beta-blockers may spark asthma attacks, so people with asthma generally do not use them.

Other side effects of beta blockers may include insomnia, colds hands and feet, fatigue, depression, slow heartbeat and erectile dysfunction. 

Never stop taking this or any medication without first talking to your doctor. Let your doctor know if you are having any side effects from your medications.

By Beth Hawkins, Contributing Writer

American Heart Association. Types of blood pressure medications. Accessed: October 19, 2015.
Mayo Clinic. High blood pressure. Uses for beta blockers. Accessed: October 19, 2015.
Acute myocardial infarction: Role of beta blocker therapy. Accessed: October 19, 2015.

Last Updated: October 20, 2015