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What should I know before taking beta blockers?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

Beta blockers are recommended for at least 3 years after a heart attack. Some experts recommend continuing beta blocker therapy indefinitely. It is not known whether long-term treatment with a beta blocker improves the chances of survival in people who have had a heart attack.

Bisoprolol, carvedilol, and sustained-release metoprolol are the only beta blockers that reduce the chance of early death from heart failure. They are recommended for all people with stable coronary artery disease and systolic heart failure. Bisoprolol, carvedilol, and sustained-release metoprolol can all benefit people with reduced left ventricular function or heart failure after a heart attack.

Beta blockers help prevent migraine headaches.

You should not take carvedilol, nebivolol, pindolol, or timolol if you are breastfeeding. Other beta blockers may also not be good options for you.

If you have asthma, you should not take a beta blocker.

If you have ever shown intolerance to beta blockers, you should not take one.

If you have COPD, you should not take timolol. Other beta blockers also may not be good options for you.

If you have diabetes, a beta blocker may not be a good option for you.

If you have kidney disease, liver disease, or peripheral vascular disease, a beta blocker may not be a good option for you.

If you have myasthenia gravis, you should not take propranolol or timolol.

If you have Raynaud disease, you should not take propranolol.

If you have sick sinus syndrome, you should not take a beta blocker unless a permanent pacemaker is in place.

If you have second-degree or third-degree atrioventricular (AV) block, you should not take a beta blocker.

If you are pregnant, may be pregnant, or planning to become pregnany, you should not take atenolol. It is not known if other beta blockers are safe for pregnant women.

You should not take carvedilol, nebivolol, pindolol, or timolol if you are breastfeeding. Other beta blockers may also not be good options for you.

If you have an abnormally slow heart rate, you should not take a beta blocker unless a permanent pacemaker is in place.

If you are undergoing allergy skin testing or allergen immunotherapy treatment (allergy shots), you should not take a beta blocker. 

This answer was adapted from Sharecare's award-winning AskMD app. Start a consultation now to find out what's causing your symptoms, learn how to manage a condition, or find a doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.