What Are Beta Blockers – How Do They Work

April 5, 2020

Beta Blockers: How They Work, Types, Benefits & Side Effects

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a whopping 70 percent of adults over the age of 65 living in the United States take at least one type of heart medication every day. Among the most commonly prescribed types include beta blockers, which are used by millions of Americans to manage a variety of conditions — including high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats and chest pains.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have referred to beta blockers as “cardiac jacks of all trades.” So what are beta blockers, and what do they do exactly?

These drugs work by blocking receptors in the heart and elsewhere that control blood flow and the release of certain hormones, including adrenaline. Interestingly, beta blockers actually have some similar effects as exercise on the cardiovascular system, including lowering your heart rate (which occurs once you become “exercise-trained”), reducing your blood pressure and even protecting against anxiety.

They are also believed to help save lives, thanks to their ability to reduce recurrent heart attacks.

What Are Beta Blockers?

Beta blockers (BBs) are a type of cardiac medication. In the U.S., these drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of  a number of different conditions, most often those that affect the heart.

They are often prescribed after someone suffers a heart attack or used to help treat other cardiovascular conditions— such as abnormal heart rhythms (called arrhythmias), abnormally fast heart rates (called tachycardia) and irregular rhythms like atrial fibrillation.

What is the function of a beta blocker? BBs slow down your heart rate and have other effects, such as decreasing blood pressure and chest pains, in part thanks to their ability to mute the effects of adrenaline.

How They Work

These drugs work by blocking beta receptors that are found in the body in three forms:

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