Beta blockers decrease the vigor of the heart's contractions. By decreasing the force used to pump blood into the arteries, the medications decrease blood pressure.

In addition to lowering blood pressure, beta blockers have multiple beneficial effects (including prolonged life) in patients with coronary artery disease, patients who have had myocardial infarction (heart attack), and many patients with congestive heart failure (CHF).

Commonly used beta blockers include the following:

  • Atenolol (Tenormin)
  • Bisoprolol (Zebeta)
  • Carvedilol (Coreg)
  • Metoprolol (iLopressor, Toprol SL)
  • Timolol (Blockadren)

Another beta blocker, labetolol (Normodyne, Trandate) has alpha blocker properties that dilate the arteries and lower blood pressure.

Potential side effects of the beta blockers are slowing the heart rate excessively, worsening heart failure (careful long-term use has been shown to frequently provide beneficial effects in patients with CHF), and, rarely, contributing to confusion, depression, and impotence (erectile dysfunction).

Publication Review By: Jagdish Patel, M.D., F.A.C.C.

Published: 30 Jun 2000

Last Modified: 21 Jan 2015