Mechanism of action of beta blockers

Written by vickie van antwerp
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Mechanism of action of beta blockers
Beta blockers improve heart rate and reduce heart attacks. (heart attack image by JASON WINTER from

Beta blockers, which are also known as beta-adrenergic blocking agents, are widely used medications to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions. They have proven to reduce the onset of heart attacks among many other uses.

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Mechanism of Action

Beta blockers, treat cardiac and noncardiac illnesses. Beta blockers block the B1 and B2 adrenergic receptors that produce epinephrine, also known as adrenalin. Epinephrine can cause vasoconstriction when levels are high. Beta blockers help the heart to beat slower with less force, so it does not have to work as hard.


Beta blockers are used to reduce blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias and chest pain. They can also be used to treat migraine headaches, glaucoma and atrial fibrillation, and to prevent sudden death after a heart attack.

Since beta blockers control the production of adrenalin, they can reduce the heart rate and give a calming affect to the body. Musicians and actors have been using the drug since 1970 to control stage fright. This is an off-label use; beta blockers have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for such use.

Side Affects

Some side affects of beta blockers include: bradycardia (slow heart rate), congestive heart failure, hypotension (very low blood pressure), mental depression, weakness, paresthesia of the hands (tingling or numbness), lightheadedness and sexual dysfunction in men.

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