Beta-Blockers for Coronary Artery Disease

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Beta-Blockers for Coronary Artery Disease


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Beta-blockers reduce the workload on the heart by slowing the heart rate. A more rapid heart rate caused by exertion and excitement increases the workload on the heart.

Why It Is Used

Beta-blockers lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce the workload on the heart. This in turn can help relieve or prevent chest pain and discomfort (angina). Beta-blockers are often used with other medicines to treat a heart attack in progress.

Beta-blockers are also taken after a heart attack for a long time—maybe for the rest of your life—to lower the risk of sudden death.

How Well It Works

Beta-blockers can reduce the severity and frequency of angina.1

Beta-blockers also lower blood pressure. Lowering blood pressure helps to lower the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Side Effects

Side effects of beta-blockers may include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Decreased blood flow to the extremities, causing them to feel cold.
  • Increased leg pain brought on by exertion (intermittent claudication).

In people who have diabetes, beta-blockers can cover up warning signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as change in pulse rate, and increase the risk of low blood sugar episodes.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

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).

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. O'Toole L (2008). Angina (chronic stable), search date June 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence:


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John A. McPherson, MD, FACC, FSCAI - Cardiology
Last Revised August 12, 2010

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