Mayo Clinic defines beta blockers, also called beta-adrenergic blocking agents, as medications that lower blood pressure. Beta blockers improve blood flow by opening blood vessels, blocking the effects of adrenaline and making the heart beat slower and with less force. The type of beta blockers used is determined by the condition being treated and the overall health of the patient.
Mayo Clinic states that acebutolol, propranolol, bisoprolol, metoprolol, atenolol and nadolol are beta blockers. Beta blockers are typically the second choice for doctors after other blood pressure medications are ineffective. Beta blockers may be combined with diuretics, calcium channel blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. Besides high blood pressure, beta blockers treat or prevent heart attacks, migraines, heart failure, hyperthyroidism, chest pain, glaucoma, generalized anxiety disorder and certain tremors.
Headache, fatigue, stomach and digestive issues and dizziness are common side effects of beta blockers, and depression, insomnia, shortness of breath and a reduced sex drive are less common side effects, notes Mayo Clinic. Beta blockers can also cause a temporary mild increase in triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Patients with asthma typically do not use beta blockers to prevent triggering asthma attacks. It is important for those with diabetes who take beta blockers to regularly monitor their blood sugar levels.