Beta-Blockers for Fast Heart Rates

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Beta-Blockers for Fast Heart Rates


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How It Works

Beta-blockers help slow the heart rate by blocking the effect of the hormone adrenaline. This reduces the number of electrical impulses that pass through the atrioventricular (AV) node to the lower heart chambers (ventricles).

Why It Is Used

Beta-blockers are used to help control the heart rate and prevent episodes of supraventricular tachycardia. They are also used to treat high blood pressure and angina (chest pain).

How Well It Works

Beta-blockers are very effective at slowing the heart rate.1 Some of the medicines have also been shown to be helpful for people with coronary artery disease or heart failure.

Side Effects

Side effects of beta-blockers include:

  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Cold arms, hands, legs, or feet due to poor blood flow to these areas.
  • Lack of awareness of severe low blood sugar levels in people with diabetes who take insulin or oral hypoglycemics.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing in people with asthma.

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

What To Think About

Beta-blockers can sometimes slow down the heart rate too much. Close monitoring during treatment is important, although most people do not have serious side effects from this medicine.

Some of these medicines may make symptoms worse in people who have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or heart failure with a lot of excess fluid build-up.

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



  1. Drugs for cardiac arrhythmias (2007). Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 5(58): 51–58.


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Donald Sproule, MD, CM, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer John M. Miller, MD - Electrophysiology
Last Revised November 26, 2010

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