Beta blocker

Synonyms: Beta-adrenergic receptor blocker

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Family practice, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Patients with heart disease often take beta blockers, a class of heart medication that treats heart failure, high blood pressure and tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate). After a time, a beta blocker may enhance the pumping ability of your heart and improve mortality even in those with severe cardiovascular disease and heart failure. 

In Our Own Words

A common class of heart medications, beta blockers work by latching onto tiny proteins (beta receptors) found on the surface of many cells in the body. (Beta 1 receptors are in heart cells; beta-2 receptors are in lung and blood vessel cells, plus some heart cells.)

Ordinarily, substances produced in the body, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, bind to these beta receptors and trigger your heart to beat faster and blood vessels to constrict. 

Relevant Conditions
Common Types
  • Nonselective
  • Cardioselective (acts on beta 1 receptors only)
  • Third generation compounds (in addition to blocking beta receptors)
Side Effects
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing up
  • Increased risk of fatigue and sexual dysfunction
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "Beta Blockers." Cleveland Clinic Foundation. Sept. 2010. Accessed July 2013.
  • Harvard Medical School. “Beta Blockers: Cardiac jacks of all trades.” Family Health Guide; Harvard Health Publications. Feb. 2012. Accessed July 2013.
  • American Heart Association. "Types of Blood Pressure Medications." Conditions. Aug. 2012. Accessed July 2013.
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